GALVESTON — Two-year-old Riley Ann Sawyers, known for weeks as Baby Grace, died after a disciplinary plan involving belt lashings went out of control, the attorney for Riley's mother said Wednesday.
He also revealed that Riley's mother, Kimberly Dawn Trenor, 19, is pregnant.
Royce Clyde Zeigler II, 24, of Spring stayed home from work July 24 to make sure that Trenor, his wife of less than two months, followed his orders to whip Riley with a belt, not by hand, attorney Tommy Stickler Jr. said.
Zeigler wanted his wife to spank Riley with a belt when she failed to say such things as "please" and "yes sir" or "no sir," Stickler said. Zeigler didn't believe Trenor was doing it, however, because Riley's behavior wasn't changing.
Somehow the whipping spiraled into holding Riley's head under water in a bathtub, Zeigler throwing her onto a tile floor, and her face being pushed into a pillow and a couch, according to a statement Trenor gave to investigators on Saturday.
"It got way out of control," Stickler said. "It wasn't his plan to beat her so bad she would die. It was his plan to use the belt to beat her to get her to do things the way he wanted."
If I were to urge you to avoid one thing it would be this: As much as we should hope that justice is done in this case, let us not think of ourselves as being above these people. Consider that God, in His mercy, spared us from becoming the kind of people that would do this to our child. This is an overused phrase, but remember, "There but for the grace of God go I." He could have very easily allowed any of us to develop the same kind of anger and psychological immaturity as these folks.
On the other hand, consider the One who has adopted us as His children. We were, in fact, just as guilty of bloodshed as the mother and stepfather of little Riley (Baby Grace). A little while after I read that article, I found this one (written by Russell Moore) over at Domain For Truth. In this article, Moore parallels our adoption as sons by the Most High God with his own experience adopting two boys from a Russian orphanage:
Maria and I had returned to Kentucky to wait for the call to return to pick up our children, and had only these pictures of young Maxim and Sergei, our equivalent of a prenatal sonogram, to show to our friends and relatives back home. But people kept asking: "Are they brothers?"
"They are now," I replied. "Yes" the lady snapped, "I know. But are they really brothers?" Clenching my jaw, I coolly responded, "Yes, now they are both our children so they are now really brothers." The woman sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, "Well, you know what I mean."
Of course, we did know what she meant. She meant did these two boys—born three weeks apart—share a common biological ancestry, a common bloodline, some common DNA. It struck me that this question betrayed what most of us tend to view as really important when it comes to sonship: traceable genetic material.
This is the reason people would also ask us, "So do you also have any children of your own?" And it is the reason newspaper obituaries will often refer to the deceased’s "adopted child," as though this were the equivalent of a stepchild or a protégé, rather than a real offspring.
During the weeks that Maria and I waited anxiously for the call to return to Russia to receive our children, I pondered this series of questions. As I read through the Books of Ephesians and Galatians and Romans, it occurred to me that this is precisely the question that was faced by the Apostle Paul and the first-century Christian churches.
As pig-flesh-eating Gentile believers—formerly goddess-worshipers and Caesar-magnifiers and all the rest—began confessing Jesus as Messiah, some Jewish Christians demanded to know, "Are they circumcised?" The Gentile believers would respond, "Yes, with the circumcision made without hands, the circumcision of Christ." From the heated letters of the New Testament, it is evident that the response was along the lines of, "Yes, but are you really circumcised, and you know what I mean."
I can't really add any more than what is in these two articles. When we consider that our loving Heavenly Father looked down upon us foolish, fallen humans, and instead of letting us all fall into eternal destruction, pulled some of us up out of the miry clay and set our feet upon the solid rock of Christ Jesus our Lord; and we consider that when we don't say "thank you" and "yes/no, Sir", and when we are stubborn and stiffnecked and foolhearty, and we still rebel once in a while, and we sometimes get angry with Him and question why He does some of the things He does...
And yet He does not just cut us off and leave us to our own devices, but corrects us with the wise correction of a loving Father--how could we not just simply fall down and thank Him over and over again that He did not leave us as orphans, but rather gave us the "Spirit of adoption by which we cry 'Abba, Father!' "
Thank you, Lord! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!