San Diego

Mistrial Declared in Trial For Man Accused in Alpine Toddler's Death

A mistrial was declared Wednesday in the emotionally charged case of a man accused of killing an Alpine toddler in 2016 when a jury failed to reach a decision. 

A jury was deadlocked Wednesday prompting the judge to declare a mistrial for Wiliey Kevin Foster, 26, of Alpine, who faced charges of murder and assault on a child with force likely to produce great bodily harm or death.

On Dec. 6, 2016, around 12:05 p.m., Leah Brown-Meza was found not breathing in a motorhome parked on a property in the 300 block of Hunter Lane. Paramedics tried to revive the toddler, but she was later pronounced dead.

In the days before her death, the toddler suffered severe and extensive brain bleeding, a broken arm and a burn to the bottom of her foot, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office.

The jury had deliberated for about two and a half days before reporting to Judge Robert Amador late Wednesday afternoon that they could not reach a decision.

A jury foreman said the jury was hopelessly deadlocked.

The judge asked the jury whether there was a "reasonable possibility" they could reach a verdict. Each responded no, and the judge declared a mistrial.

The judge then asked the jury for the numerical breakdown of the charges.

To the murder charge, five-voted not guilty, four guilty, three were undecided.

To the assault charge, the split was seven guilty, two not guilty, three undecided.

In the trial's final day, a jury heard two very different arguments Friday about who's responsible for the death of an East County toddler — two versions of what led to Leah Brown-Meza’s death.

The toddler’s mother, Lillie Brown, earlier pleaded guilty to a child endangerment charge, but Foster’s defense attorney insisted she was responsible for the child’s death.

"They all believe that the mother Lily was a terrible mother and she was neglectful of her child," Defense Attorney Gretchen Von Helms said. "If they could have convicted her of the murder of this baby, they would have done so."

The prosecutor says the District Attorney's office will likely move forward with a new trial on the same charges, and they might even add new charges. That new trial would be months away.

"I'm certainly disappointed and frustrated by it because we still believe that Mr. Foster is guilty of both charges, and so we'll have to see what happens at our next status conference," said deputy district attorney Chantal DeMauregne

The child's biological father, a member of the Jamul Indian Village, shared joint custody with Brown. Leah was the great-granddaughter of the man who led the tribe over three decades and helped establish it as a band in the Kumeyaay Nation.

The father and his family were in court Wednesday, sobbing after the mistrial was declared. 

A family attorney says they have no public opinion on who may be responsible for the toddler’s death, they only want justice.

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