A Metairie man has been convicted of the second-degree murder of his girlfriend’s 27-month-old son, who died from blunt-force traumatic injuries caused by numerous beatings.
Troy Kelly, 30, faces a mandatory life sentence in prison for causing the death of Semaj Batiste on the evening of Feb. 20, 2014 or early the following morning in their apartment in the 300 block of North Laurel Street.
The autopsy, conducted by the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office, revealed the toddler had suffered numerous injuries, including lacerations to the liver and spleen and broken ribs. The injuries were inflicted within hours of his death, and some were so severe that he likely would not have survived even had he received medical attention, according to the Coroner’s Office.
The pathologist’s findings contradicted Kelly’s assertions that Batiste received the injuries from a single event. When questioned by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Kelly said he had bathed Batiste and two of his older siblings together the night before the death.
Kelly said Batiste defecated in the tub, and that three children were playing with the stool when he discovered what happened. He said he quickly pulled the children out of the tub, and in doing so he might have flung Semaj into the toilet.
Pressed by detectives who knew about the autopsy results, Kelly denied physically abusing the child. But prior to partially confessing, Kelly was observed praying and heard saying, “I’m sorry, Jesus. I’m so sorry.”
The toddler’s mother called 911 on the morning of Feb. 21, 2014, after discovering her son was not breathing. The night before, the mother said she had put her toddler and two of his older siblings to bed when she noticed he was not feeling well. Believing her son was getting sick, she gave him Tylenol.
A Jefferson Parish jury deliberated about two hours before returning with its verdict on Thursday afternoon (Feb. 16). Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Kelly on March 2.
Assistant District Attorneys Andrew DeCoste and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.