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Court denies appeal in 'heinous' murder of 1-year-old Zoey Wagoner

Posted at 1:08 PM, Oct 17, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the maximum sentence handed down to a Greenfield man convicted earlier this year of stomping his 1-year-old daughter to death.

Matthew Wagoner, 31, was found guilty in January of murder and neglect of a dependent for the death of his 1-year-old daughter Zoey.

Wagoner and his wife Jessica – who was also convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison – initially claimed Zoey had fallen off a bed and stopped breathing. An autopsy later showed she had multiple blunt force injuries inside and outside of her body, and healing breaks to bones in both of her arms.

The pathologist who performed the autopsy told police Zoey's injuries were consistent with someone "stomping" on her.

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Wagoner appealed his convictions and sentence, arguing that the evidence was insufficient and that the length of his sentence was inappropriate.

The Indiana Court of Appeals issued its ruling on the case Monday – and was apparently unmoved by Wagoner's arguments.

"As to the nature of Wagoner’s offenses, it is challenging to find words that fully capture the heinousness of his actions. As the parent of Z.W., as well as her sole caregiver on the morning of her death, Wagoner held the ultimate position of trust—and abused that position in a violent, horrifying fashion. Wagoner knew that the infant was having difficulty that morning, as evidenced by his texts to Jessica describing how Z.W. was vomiting, moaning, and acting sleepier than normal, as well as the expressed concern of a fellow customer at a convenience store about Z.W.’s labored breathing. But he did not seek medical attention because of concerns about the bruising to her face. And when she stopped breathing, he did not call 911. Instead, he texted Jessica. Jessica asked [the babysitter] to run to the house, and when [the babysitter] got there, Wagoner continued to refuse to call 911. Finally, [the babysitter] took his phone and called 911 herself. But by then, it was too late. Wagoner later attempted to conceal his crime by inventing a story that Z.W. had sustained her injuries by falling off of the bed. To say the least, the nature of these offenses does not aid Wagoner’s inappropriateness argument."

The court also rejected Wagoner's motion for his sentence to be overturned, writing, "It has often been said that maximum sentences should be reserved for the very worst offenses and the very worst offenders. We do not fault the trial court for finding that this case qualifies."

Wagoner is currently serving his prison sentence at the Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill, Indiana. His projected release date is April 2071.