Metairie man sentenced to life in prison in toddler’s beating death

A Metairie man was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday (March 2) for causing the death of his girlfriend’s toddler, Semaj Batiste.

Troy Kelly, 30, was convicted last month of second-degree murder for the Feb. 20, 2014 death of the 27-month-old boy. His death was caused by blunt-force traumatic injuries inflicted upon the toddler through numerous beatings in their apartment in the 300 block of North Laurel Street.

Forensic pathology evidence presented during the trial shows Semaj died within hours of receiving the injuries that included lacerations to the liver and spleen and broken ribs.

“The one burning question I have is why? What causes a man to beat an innocent child to death?” Semaj’s uncle Gary Bukaske asked in impact testimony. “What could an innocent toddler have done to deserve this treatment?”

Bukaske also said that Kelly will have the blessing of waking every morning still breathing. “Semaj took his last breath in agonizing pain,” he testified.

Life without the benefit of probation, parole or suspended sentence is the mandatory punishment for second-degree murder under Louisiana law. Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Kelly after rejecting defense attorneys’ requests for a post-verdict judgment of acquittal and a new trial.

Kelly told the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office that he was bathing Semaj and two of his siblings when Semaj defecated in the tub. In rushing to remove the children from the bath, he said he may have flung Semaj into the toilet.

During the interrogation, Kelly was observed praying and saying to himself, “I’m sorry, Jesus. I’m so sorry.”

Assistant District Attorneys Andrew DeCoste and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

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