Visalia mother guilty in death of daughter killed by boyfriend

The Fresno BeeJune 9, 2014 

A Visalia mother was found guilty Monday of failing to protect her 3-year-old daughter, who was killed by the mother's boyfriend.

Nicole Lee, 34, sobbed uncontrollably when the Tulare County Superior Court jury of 10 women and two men found her guilty of felony child endangerment causing the death of her child, Natalynn Miller.

Five years ago, Natalynn died of blunt-force trauma after being attacked by Lee's boyfriend, Ryann Jones, in a Visalia apartment.

Jones, 29, was found guilty last year of second-degree murder and child abuse causing death, and is serving 25 years to life in prison. A notice of appeal has been filed in the case.

Lee was not present when Natalynn was attacked, but prosecutor Brenda Broker said Lee knew Jones posed a serious danger to her child yet she failed to protect her.

According to testimony by witnesses, Lee, Jones and Natalynn were seen together at McDonald's three times when unsettling behavior occurred.

One time, Jones grabbed the girl by her leg and slammed her down, Broker said. Another time he threatened her with his fist coming to her face and stopping just short, another time he yelled at her aggressively, but Lee did nothing, the witnesses testified.

The girl's father, Troy Miller, was in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

"I think about her every day," he said. "I feel a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders."

Jurors started deliberations about 3 p.m. Friday and told the judge about noon Monday they had a verdict.

Judge Valeriano Saucedo set sentencing for July 15 but said Lee could remain free on $100,000 bail. She faces six to 10 years in state prison.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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