Prosecutors in Nevada seek the death penalty for a father who is accused of killing his 3-year-old daughter.
Justin Tom Bennett, 23, allegedly punched his daughter Abygaile in the chest so hard that it burst her heart heart, reports the Daily Mail.
On July 1, 2016, police and paramedics were called to the Henderson home of Bennett and his wife, Korie Morimoto, where Abygaile was found unconscious. She was rushed to the hospital was but pronounced dead on arrival.
The Clark County Coroner's Office ruled the toddler's manner of death a homicide, and Bennett was arrested for murder the following day.
An autopsy revealed the cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the chest. The toddler also showed signs of chronic physical abuse, including a bruised lung and a fractured rib.
The indictment presents details of torture that Bennett allegedly inflicted upon Abygaile and her 4-year-old sister. He would allegedly kick and punch the two girls, throw them against the wall, make them stand for long periods, partially suffocate them by holding his hand over their mouth and nose, and force them to eat hot peppers.
According to the prosecutor, the habanero peppers were so hot that it would cause the children to foam at the mouth. "Their eyes would be bleeding with tears, and he would cover their mouths until they would swallow."
In the days before she was killed, Abygaile had her back broken and suffered three fractured ribs, the prosecutor said.
Bennett claims that on the morning of Abygaile's death, he found her unconscious with a blanket wrapped around her neck, KTNV reported at the time. He said he tried to revive her before calling for help.
According to the arrest report, Bennett said his disciplinary methods "fit the crime," while admitting to detectives that he is not a good father.
On Jan. 24, the district attorney’s death penalty committee announced it would seek the death penalty against Bennett. His attorney argued that there is no evidence that Bennett intended to kill his daughter.
Abygaile's mother was attending a U.S. Air Force training program in Texas when the alleged murder occurred.
Morimoto was later charged with crimes related to allowing the alleged abuse to occur.
The couple were reportedly investigated by Child Protective Services in 2016, but were deemed to not be a danger to their children.