GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- A jury took took less than three hours to find Tiffany Moss guilty on all counts related to the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter.
Moss is accused of starving Emani Moss to death before trying dispose of her body.
The child's birth father accepted a plea deal years before.
In day six of the trial, the jury found Moss guilty on all six counts:
- Felony Murder
- Felony Murder
- Cruelty to Children 1st Degree
- Cruelty to Children 1st Degree
- Concealing the Death of Another
Moss faces 3 possible sentences: the death penalty, life in prison without parole, or life in prison with the possibility of parole
After delivering the guilty verdict, the jury deliberated Moss' sentence for about three more hours on Monday before asking a judge if they could "sleep on it" and reconvene Tuesday morning. The judge granted them that request.
Throughout the entire murder trial Moss, who is representing herself, didn't offer a defense. She didn't make an opening statement. She didn't cross-examine witnesses and she didn't make closing arguments.
The state gave their closing argument Monday morning.
DEATH PENALTY POSSIBLE
Juries in Georgia have been hesitant in recent years to sentence defendants to death.
The last death row sentence came down in Augusta in 2014. Adrian Hargrove was convicted of stabbing a pregnant woman to death and then killing her parents. He's currently awaiting execution.
Death sentences for women are even rarer. Sixteen women have been executed since 1976 when the Supreme Court lifted the moratorium on capital punishment.
Georgia was, however, the last state to execute a woman, killing Kelly Gissendaner in 2015.
Emani Moss' body was found burned and inside a trash bag at her apartment complex on November 2, 2013. She was 10.
Gwinnett County Police arrested and charged her father, Eman Moss, and stepmother, Tiffany Moss, with murder. Police said they set her on fire, hoping to make evidence of their abuse of her disappear.
Eman Moss, Emani's birth father, testified that he burned her in an attempt to cremate her body.
Before her body was burned, the girl was literally starved to death.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter described the case as "A Cinderella story gone horribly wrong."
HISTORY OF ABUSE
Emani’s death was the catalyst for change in the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.
The investigation into her death unveiled a history of abuse and so many missed opportunities to save her. The girl’s grandmother, Robin Moss, filed a lawsuit against DFCS saying caseworkers were aware of deteriorating conditions in the home, and could have stepped in sooner, possibly saving Emani's life.
According to the lawsuit, four months prior to Emani's death, in August 2013, the Department of Family and Children's Services received an anonymous call that said Emani was being neglected by her father and stepmother and "that she appeared to be thin."
The lawsuit said that DFCS did not follow up on the call, and "screened the call out 'due to having no current address and no current maltreatment.'"
In May 2012, Emani's school reported emotional and psychological neglect to DFCS after Tiffany Moss allegedly hit Emani on her back and head with a belt "because she was eating breakfast too slowly which would make her late for the bus."
Emani received treatment from the school nurse, which included an ice pack for her back.
DFCS opened an investigation in connection with this report. As part of this particular incident, a DFCS caseworker spoke to Emani, her stepmother and her teacher. No concerns were noted by the caseworker and the case was closed with no additional action being taken. The actions reported by the school were "identified as insignificant and determined to be corporal punishment."
In 2008 and early 2009, the lawsuit says DFCS was made aware by a reporter Emani may have been sexually abused when she was three years old. The report says "there was blood in Emani's underwear after picking her up from daycare but she never received any subsequent medical treatment."
Loganville attorney Mike Jones represented Robin Moss in 2013 and said that after stepmother Tiffany Moss pleaded guilty to beating Emani in 2010, the state agency returned the girl to their custody.
"She (stepmother Tiffany Moss) is on probation for five years for child abuse of that child and they place her back there anyway," Jones said in 2013. "Somebody needs to answer for that."
According to incident reports, there were indications of child abuse involving Emani dating as far back as 2004. In that year, Eman Moss was charged and convicted of battery and child cruelty for beating Emani's biological mother in the child's presence.
In 2010, Emani's teacher called police when the girl told the teacher her stepmother had spanked her with a belt. The teacher reported severe bruising on her chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs.
Then, in July 2012, two incident reports were filed when Emani attempted to run away from home. The 10-year-old told police she had been tied to a chair with two of her belts and placed in a cold shower. Police said there was never enough information to charge her father and stepmother at the time. But each of the cases were reported to DFCS.
FALLOUT AT DFCS
After her death, three DFCS employees - an intake case manager, a social services administrator and a program assistant, were all terminated between November 8th and December 5th. Others were disciplined.
According to the DFCS case file on Emani Moss, most of those disciplined were directly responsible for dismissing allegations of abuse reported over a matter of years. The report cites three employees with "failure to thoroughly review intake report, family history and assess risk and insure (sic) safety."
According to DFCS internal investigation, another employee, an administrator with eight years of DFCS employment, had "prior knowledge of this family and their history," but still allowed Emani Moss to be screened out, closing her case in August 2013. That was DFCS final contact with the 10-year-old; she would die nearly three months later.
Her case file notes how her father described to police the torture she endured: scalding with boiling water; isolation like a prisoner; and the starvation that ultimately killed her.
Her grandmother Robin fought for years to get custody of Emani. It wasn’t until after the 10-year-old's death that a probate court judge in Gwinnett County made Moss the temporary administrator of the girl's estate.