7-year-old admits killing toddler sister, saving dad

WASHINGTON • A father in Texas accused of killing his two-year-old daughter in what police had called a "fit of rage" has been cleared of the crime after the toddler's seven-year-old brother admitted accidentally smothering her in 2015.

More than a year after Mr Anthony Michael Sanders, 33, was charged with capital murder in the death of his daughter, Ellie, prosecutors found the toddler's brother had said he rolled a "heavy" pillow onto her face while they were playing and then could not move it off her, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper.

The boy, who was five at the time, said he told his mother about the incident a year or two ago, but never told anyone else as he was "afraid he would get into trouble".

Mr Sanders was watching the children one Saturday night in their home in Watauga, Texas, while his wife went to an art show. When she got home, Mr Sanders and his son were in the living room, while Ellie was in the bedroom. Shortly after, Ellie's brother said he "tried to wake her up but she wouldn't", according to police. Ellie was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Investigators had suspected at the time that Mr Sanders pressed his hands over Ellie's nose and mouth until she died, speculating that the toddler may have disrupted him as he played computer games. The medical examiner had ruled the death a homicide caused by asphyxiation.

Mr Sanders' attorney Tim Moore said his client, who was released from jail last month, had denied the charge against him from the beginning and was "elated" that it had been dismissed.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 08, 2017, with the headline '7-year-old admits killing toddler sister, saving dad'. Print Edition | Subscribe