He murdered a 3-year-old girl. Now a jury will decide his fate: life in prison or death

Christopher Cheary
Christopher Cheary

The fate of Christopher Cheary now rests with the same jury that found him guilty of murder in the death of 3-year-old Sophia Acosta.

The jury of five women and seven men must decide on either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury got the case Tuesday morning after closing arguments ended in the penalty phase of the murder trial.

The jury asked to have some testimony read back and met until 4:30 p.m. before ending deliberations for the day, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office said. The jury will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

On Nov. 14, Cheary, 25, was found guilty of first-degree murder in Sophia’s death five years ago. Cheary was living with her and her mother in an Exeter apartment where authorities found the girl unconscious.

The jury also found true the special circumstances of sexual penetration with a foreign object and torture, making him eligible for the death penalty.

Sophia died of blunt force trauma died May 11, 2011, a few days after being taken from the Exeter apartment to Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia and later to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County.

Cheary was arrested several days later and has been in jail since.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold