A Texas woman was sentenced to 50 years in prison last week for the 2019 killing of her boyfriend’s 4-year-old daughter, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Shawna Hooey, 33, of Tomball, was taking care of her own five children and 4-year-old Jakyzia Alexander when she took her to a 24-hour emergency center on Sept. 7, 2019, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a news release.

At the emergency clinic on the day of her death, Alexander’s body was already cold and Hooey reportedly told medical personnel and authorities at least four different stories about what happened to the child, who had a visible black eye and other injuries.

“We have to work together as a community to protect our children who are particularly vulnerable to abuse from violent adults,” Ogg said. “We are thankful to the jurors who recognized that this was not a single incident, but a pattern of abuse and rightfully sentenced this woman to spend decades behind bars.”

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Alexander began living in Hooey’s home when her father, who worked nights and had sole custody of her, entered a relationship with Hooey, Ogg said. The girl’s father lived with family members at a different location closer to his job, and rarely saw his daughter – only seeing her through video calls in the two months before her death.

On the day of her death, Hooey said Alexander had to be woken up and was taking deep, labored breaths and not acting normally. Hooey said she drove the girl around “in a hot car to try to get her to breathe normally,” but ultimately went home to change clothes and take Alexander to the emergency clinic, according to Ogg. 

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Harris County Sheriff vehicles

In other versions of what happened to Alexander before she died, Hooey claimed the child ran into a doorknob in one instance and threw herself against a toilet paper holder in the bathroom in another. Both alleged incidents took place two days before Hooey took Alexander to the emergency room, and she claimed the child was acting normally.

Further examination revealed Alexander had signs of repeated past abuse, including fresh, resolving and healed injuries, according to Ogg. 

Alexander’s autopsy showed she died from blunt force trauma to the head, Ogg announced, adding that the fatal blow would have resulted in seizures, vomiting and dazed reactions almost immediately. Witnesses testified that Alexander was acting normally the day before she was taken to the emergency clinic.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case, and later charged Hooey with murder.

Harris County Sheriff's car

Following a nine-day trial, a Harris County jury convicted Hooey of murder and sentenced her to 50 years in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Gilbert Sawtelle, a chief in the district attorney’s office’s Child Fatality Section, prosecuted Hooey and said child abusers often work to hide signs of abuse by keeping children away from other adults or dressing them to cover the injuries.

“Child abuse does happen, and when we see it, we need to call it out and notify the police and child protective services,” Sawtelle said in the release. “This girl was wearing long sleeves in the summertime—and if someone had noticed her injuries and intervened, she would probably still be here today.”

Hooey must serve at least half of her prison sentence before she will be eligible for parole.

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