Maya Johnson could have been the victim of the pint-size siblings with whom she lived.
Or maybe she was killed by a clean, brutal blow from a frustrated man who had recently moved in with them.
A jury is trying to sift the truth from a week’s worth of testimony and evidence that could support either scenario. Closing arguments were Monday, and deliberations will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
What is certain is that the 2-year-old suffered what prosecutors described as an “explosion” in her belly shortly before her death – an attack so savage that it ruptured her internal organs and killed her within hours.
The gruesome case in DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence F. Seeliger’s courtroom involves a mother, Monique Johnson, testifying against the father of three of her four children. Rodney Terrell Hood fathered the elder three kids, who were ages 3, 4 and 5 when Maya, their half sister, was killed. He is accused of cruelty to children, aggravated assault, felony murder and malice murder.
Hood, of Lithonia, had returned to the home after a long absence – and after Johnson had produced Maya through an encounter with another man.
On Jan. 25, 2007, Johnson went out for the evening, leaving the four children in Hood’s care. Maya was potty training, and in a weepy mood. Prosecutors maintained that Hood was frustrated by her behavior and that he already disliked her.
“She was a reminder that the child’s mother was with another man,” said Harold Buckler, a prosecutor with the office of DeKalb County District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming.
“The truth is not difficult,” he said. “Rodney Hood, out of a fit of anger, beat that 2-year-old child to death.”
Hood’s attorney, Corinne M. Mull, described a chaotic household filled with violent children who beat their little sister and threw toys at her.