LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) - A Lynchburg man will now spend time in jail in connection to the 2018 death of a toddler.
Maurice Puryear (right) was found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor more than one year after the death of 22-month-old Amarah Lane (left).
Maurice Puryear was found guilty on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a child Tuesday morning during a bench trial. Judge Patrick Yeatts sentenced Puryear to one year in jail, the maximum sentence for the charge.
“His behavior was encouraging or contributing to the abuse of Amarah,” said Bethany Harrison, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Lynchburg.
Puryear’s sentence stems from the death of 22-month-old Amarah Lane. Fantasia Lane, Amarah’s mother, and Puryear, Lane’s boyfriend, brought the toddler to the emergency department in August of 2018.
According to Harrison, when Amarah was taken to the hospital by Lane and Puryear, Amarah was “listless” and “floppy.” She had bruises and scrapes on her head and scalp, as well as large bruises on her legs.
WDBJ7 received a copy of the “list of events” log from the Department of Emergency Services. The document reveals, "they are claiming the baby fell off the bed three times last night." The document goes on to read, "injuries inconsistent with their story."
Amarah also had extremely high sodium levels. A medical examiner confirmed that she died from sodium poisoning. She was unable to determine the exact cause of the blunt force trauma.
Harrison said the abuse was believed to have taken place on Aug. 10 during a time that Lane was alone with Amarah. Lane decided to wait 19 hours before taking Amarah to the hospital.
Puryear’s involvement, according to Harrison, surrounds text messages. In the hours before Amarah was taken to the hospital Lane and Puryear were texting about the toddler’s symptoms and behavior.
“I think she hurt her neck,” Lane texted, according to phone records obtained in Lynchburg Circuit Court.
Minutes later, Puryear texted back, “dang, well might have to tie her back to the bed but this time to her ankle, so she can’t move at all.”
Harrison said that the texts continued over the course of about three hours.
“Maurice again tells her that she needs to tie the child by her ankles. That it is sad that she is in pain, but she needs to learn to be still,” Harrison said in an interview with WDBJ7.
The pair waited to take Amarah to the hospital until the next morning. According to Harrison, Puryear said he came home from work and it was dark. He did not realize anything wrong with Amarah. When they woke up the next morning, they drove her to Lynchburg General Hospital.
Harrison said that Puryear claimed the Commonwealth was blowing the texts out of proportion, that he never saw Fantasia Lane abuse Amarah and that he did nothing wrong.
“But the judge said that he cannot think of any scenario where you would tie a child to anything and that we don’t even allow our animals to be tied up in such a way,” said Harrison.
Puryear is now the second person to be convicted in relation to Amarah’s death. Fantasia Lane pleaded guilty in December to felony homicide, child abuse or neglect causing serious injury and child endangerment. She was sentenced to 23 years in prison, with an additional 28 suspended.
Amarah was entered into foster care in November of 2016 at three weeks old after reports of abuse. Fantasia Lane fought for custody of her daughter. In May of 2018, three months before Amarah’s death, a judge granted custody back to Fantasia, according to court documents.
Court documents given to WDBJ7 by Amarah’s father’s family detail why Amarah was originally put into foster care, including reports of "two swollen hands" and "burns to the face".
The documents reveal her mother said she had used hair ties to keep mittens on the infant's hands. Her mother could not give consistent explanation of the burns to her face.
The documents also detail a psychological evaluation that found Lane to have highly elevated scores of child abuse potential that "would predict future child abuse.”
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