September 2, 2010
By Winston-Salem Journal
LEXINGTON (MCT) — The pain of Lily Grace Crowell's death at 21 months old was palpable everywhere in Davidson Superior Court on Wednesday as Travis Christopher Lemmond, the man who pleaded guilty in July to killing her, was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison for second-degree murder.
It was in the buttons bearing a black-and-white photo of Lily's smiling face and the words "Justice for Lily Grace" that were worn by more than 30 people who came to the sentencing hearing yesterday.
And it was in Lemmond's trembling voice as he apologized for what happened to Lily Grace, who was his girlfriend's daughter. Prosecutors said Lily was shaken to death.
Lemmond's friends and family described him Wednesday as a tender-hearted man who cared deeply for Lily. But after the hearing, Lily's great-aunt, Donna Prow, said she didn't believe that Lemmond truly felt sorry for what he did.
Lemmond was baby-sitting Lily on the night of Nov. 19, 2009, at the Lexington apartment that he shared with Lily's mother. The woman, Hannah Colby Crowell, had gone to Asheville to visit friends.
Lemmond told authorities that Lily had been trying to get toys out of a wooden chest when she let go of the lid and fell on her back. Then, he said, a candleholder fell off the toy chest and hit her on the head.
Lily seemed fine, Lemmond told investigators, except for when she vomited a few hours later.
Lemmond told investigators that at 6:15 the morning of Nov. 20, he found her not breathing and her lips blue. He called Lily's grandmother, and her grandfather, Michael Crowell, came later.
Crowell said in court that he knew Lily was dead when he held her cold body but didn't have the heart to tell Lemmond.
They went to Lexington Memorial Hospital, where Lily was later pronounced dead.
Crowell said he had supported Lemmond until he read the autopsy, which said that Lily's death had been caused by blunt-force injury to the head that resulted in severe bleeding around the brain, the back of her eyes and within an optic nerve.
Crowell said Lemmond didn't tell him everything and has not shown any remorse.
Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown said that Lemmond's story didn't fit with the physical evidence. Brown said that the hemorrhaging in Lily's brain was consistent with shaken-baby syndrome.
Lemmond was initially charged with first-degree murder and felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury. Brown said that the second-degree murder plea was offered in part because there were no witnesses except Lemmond and that Lily's mother, Hannah Colby Crowell, continued to live with Lemmond up until his guilty plea in July