Testimony begins in the case of a man accused of beating his five-year-old stepdaughter to death

George Barton appears in court to answer a capital murder charge in his 5-year-old stepdaughter's death.

LEE COUNTY, Ala. — Nearly two years after five-year-old Caley Presley died, the man accused of beating her to death, her stepfather George Barton, stood trial.

Thursday morning, opening statements got underway in Judge Jacob Walker’s courtroom in the Lee County Justice Center. Since the state has to bear the burden of proof, they went first. Chief Assistant District Attorney Jessica Ventiere spoke for the state. With a photograph of Presley on a television screen facing the jury, Ventiere painted a picture of what evidence will show in the trial.

Ventiere said that Barton thought Presley was a ‘problem child’ and that he wanted to ‘break’ her.

She added that his actions were intentional and he was in complete mental control.

“You’re not going to see a knife,” Ventiere said. “You’re not going to see a bottle of poison, but the weapons that killed her are in this room sitting right on top of that little, yellow legal pad. The weapons that killed her are in this room every second we sit here.”

Barton allegedly beat Presley with a belt on multiple occasions over the course of a few days, which caused injuries. He claims that she suffered a head injury when she fell against a dresser on June 7, 2015.

The defense told the court that Barton, an Air Force veteran, suffered from PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse problems. Their client has plead not guilty.

“We wholly disagree with what they charged George Barton with, and we’re going to ask the 12 of y’all what you think the truth is,” W. Todd Crutchfield said. “You’re the sole judges of what the truth is in this matter. That’s your job.”

Crutchfield asked the jurors to focus on the evidence and testimony and put their emotions aside.

The first witness the state called was the first responding officer to the Rosie Street home on June 7, Cpl. Greg Kloepper. He said when he arrived, he found Caley unresponsive, not breathing and blood around her mouth. He attempted CPR on Presley, and added that there was a small container in the living room a minor amount of marijuana, which Cpl. Koeppler said Barton tried to hide.

He and others added that Barton’s behavior was strange.

“Unusually calm,” Cpl. Kloepper said. Suspiciously so. It struck me as suspicious because it was not consistent with how other parents of child victims have behaved in the past, my past experiences.”

A former Auburn Fire Division employee also testified. He performed CPR on Presley after Cpl. Kloepper. He said that he noticed bruises on Presley from head to toe.

Clinical psychologist Glen David King also took the stand. He interviewed Barton after the incident. He said after his analysis of Barton, he did not believe that Barton suffered from any severe mental illness. He added that Barton was very competent of what he was charged with and felt he was competent when he waived his Miranda Rights.

Proceedings will start again Friday morning at 9 at the Lee County Justice Center.

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