DALLAS - The mother of a 4-year-old girl who was tortured and killed pleaded guilty in court Wednesday.
As part of the plea deal, Jeri Quezada admitted to beating her daughter, Leiliana Wright, and agreed to testify against her ex-boyfriend, Charles Phifer. In exchange, she’ll serve at least 25 years of a 50-year prison sentence.
A court affidavit states Wright was beaten to death in March of 2016 after she drank her younger brother’s juice box. The girl was tied in a closet and beaten with a belt and bamboo stick and thrown against a wall. The autopsy also revealed she had been sexually abused.
Investigators said it happened while her mother and Phifer were high on heroin.
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson hugged Leiliana's grandmother, Alisa Clakley, at the hearing and praised prosecutors for the outcome.
Clakley says she is satisfied with the plea deal.
"There's been some form of justice for
But Clakely is not done fighting. She's suing the state for Leiliana's death.
"I believe this is what the Lord is calling me to do,” she said.
Her attorney, Kasey Krummel, says the suit is seeking systematic changes that would hold CPS workers personally liable in cases like this one.
"CPS Caseworkers are agents who should be treated no differently than police officers,” the attorney said.
According to the lawsuit, CPS received 29 calls in one week from people concerned Leiliana, and a special investigator following up took no action after realizing the family was not home.
Clakley is certain it was not the first time she was abused. She said the girl had a swollen bruised eye, bruised lip and scratch on her face a year before her death.
Clakley reported it to Child Protective Services but nothing was done to protect Wright.
One month before her death, investigators saw her and documented signs of abuse. She also was not removed from the home at that time.
Investigations later revealed the case worker had 70 cases at the time, which is nearly three times the recommended load. Two CPS case workers were ultimately fired and since then more workers have been added and the average case load has been cut in half.
Clakley hopes the outcome from Leiliana's story will someday save the life of another child.
“She just wanted to grab the world by the wings and take off,” she said. “There are people out there that did not do their job.”
Quezada will not be sentenced until after the Phifer’s trial in September. The prosecutor made it clear that her plea deal could be thrown out and she would be given a life sentence if she does not cooperate.