On Nov. 30, a jury recommended the death sentence for a heroin addict who was convicted of raping, torturing and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.
"We the jury find the appropriate penalty to be death for the murder of Sophia Acosta, dated 11/30/16, signed foreperson." Those were the words read by the court clerk, as reported by KFSN.
The same jury had already convicted Christopher Cheary of the May 2011 murder of the child, Sophia Acosta, at the apartment where they lived with her mother and younger sister.
In early Nov., Cheary was found guilty of first-degree murder, rape and torture after a two-month trial, the Daily Mail notes. Evidence showed that he beat Sophia before sexually assaulting her with an object and raping her. She was found lying on the living room floor, naked and soaking wet. The victim was taken to the hospital and was taken off life support several days later when she was pronounced brain dead.
The killing occurred while Sophia's mother, Erika Smith, was reportedly out buying drugs for Cheary in Visalia, California.
Cheary was not Sophia's father, but insisted on being called "daddy," according to the testimony of one of her babysitters, Fox News reported.
The growing heroin epidemic in the U.S. has been widely noted. Formerly a problem confined to inner-city slums, the demographics of heroin addiction have changed dramatically. In the last decade, almost 90 percent of first-time heroin users are white, most of whom are either middle class or wealthy, reports The New York Times.
President Barack Obama’s appearance March 29 at the National Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit highlighted the severity of the problem, and its increased priority as a national health issue.
Prior to the event, the White House said the president’s attendance was “part of his efforts to escalate the fight against the prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic.”
Cheary will be sentenced by a judge on Jan. 30, 2017.
Sources: KFSN, Daily Mail, The New York Times, The White House / Photo credit: Tulare County District Attorney's Office via Daily Mail