Father of murdered Grand Prairie 4-year-old confronts abusers in court

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The father of a 4-year-old girl who was tortured and beaten said he had to restrain himself as he faced the two people convicted for her death on Wednesday.

The child's mother, Jeri Quezada, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for injury to a child.

The mother's boyfriend, Charles Phifer, got life in prison after being convicted by a jury on Monday.

The two people responsible for killing 4-year-old Leiliana Wright will both have a lot of time behind bars to think about what they did. That process began on Wednesday with the little girl's father recounting one of the many harrowing warning signs.

For the first time, Brian Maker was able to face both people convicted for the death of his daughter, Leiliana Wright. He described the last time he saw her.

“The last day I had my daughter with me, I took her to see Santa Clause that morning. And she was happy,” he recalled. “The moment she saw your vehicle that day, she screamed and cried and begged me not to send her back to you.”

Maker says even though he only had limited visitation with his daughter, he repeatedly reported concerns about abuse to CPS. But after that day, Quezada never let him see Leiliana again.

Leiliana's aunt, Gina Clement, also faced Quezada and Phifer.

“It didn't need to happen,” Clement said. “There were people who loved her and were willing to take her.”

A FOX 4 investigation last year found Maker's parents had filed an affidavit to get custody of Leiliana more than a year before her death. The petition stated that Leiliana's safety was in jeopardy with her mom, and it alleged her mother was using drugs.

According to a state report, CPS opened investigations involving Leiliana and her mother in 2014 and 2015 and had an open investigation at the time of her death in 2016.

A fired supervisor told FOX 4 that CPS was drowning in other cases when Leiliana's latest case arrived, and that her caseworker had 70 other investigations.

And while the jury ultimately held Quezada and Phifer responsible for a crime the judge called "savage," one juror also now recognizes that failures within CPS left this child vulnerable.

“After it was over and I could read about the grandmother who tried so hard,” said juror Sheryl Richardson. “My heart breaks for her. To have a system where you can't get the help you need.”

A total of six employees left CPS since FOX 4 exposed missed warning signs in Leiliana's case.

The state legislature approved funding for caseworker raises and more staff in December 2016. More than 200 caseworkers were hired in North Texas, and a spokesperson says the current average caseload is now 12 a month.