09:18 PM CST on Friday, November 30, 2007
HOUSTON — A murdered 2-year-old girl, called “Baby Grace” by the police officials investigating her brutal death, has been officially identified as a missing Ohio girl.On Friday, DNA tests confirmed the little girl’s identity as that of Riley Ann Sawyers, who disappeared in June after her mother moved to Texas from Mentor, Ohio, to marry a man she met online.Riley’s mother, Kimberly Dawn Trenor, 19, and her husband, Royce Clyde Zeigler II, 24, have been arrested in the toddler’s death.Trenor told police she and Zeigler beat and tortured Riley to death July 24 in a disciplinary session that veered out of control. Trenor said they hid the girl’s body in a shed for two months before dumping it in Galveston Bay.
The little girl’s remains were found inside a plastic storage bin that washed ashore October 29.
For weeks, a contingent of Galveston County Sheriff’s investigators and FBI officials worked to track down the identity of the little girl, who wore a Target-brand pink, broom skirt, and white light-up tennis shoes with purple flowers. They distributed a police artist’s rendering of the girl, showing a toddler with blonde hair and a cherubic face.
That sketch caught the attention of Riley’s paternal grandmother in Ohio, who called police to say Baby Grace could be the granddaughter she hadn’t seen in months. Riley’s father, Robert Thomas Sawyers, 20, lives in Mentor.
That call led police to Trenor and Zeigler, who were living in Spring, Texas, about 75 miles north of Galveston.
Trenor and Zeigler were charged with injury to a child and tampering with evidence. Bail was set at $350,000 each. Trenor’s attorney, Tommy Stickler Jr., said Trenor is pregnant.
According to Stickler, Trenor said that Zeigler wanted his wife to spank Riley with a belt when she failed to say things like “please” and “yes sir” or “no sir.” Zeigler didn’t believe Trenor was doing it, however, because the 2-year-old’s behavior wasn’t changing.
The fatal beating happened after Zeigler stayed home from work to make sure his wife was following his discipline plan, Stickler said.
In a statement to authorities, Trenor said the girl was beaten with leather belts, had her head held underwater in a bathtub and then was thrown across a room, her head slamming into a tile floor.
An autopsy revealed that Riley suffered three skull fractures, but the cause of death has not been determined.
After Riley was killed, Trenor said in the police statement, Zeigler had her forge a document that the Ohio Department of Children’s Services had taken Riley away because of allegations of sexual abuse.
Trenor told relatives that someone claiming to be a social worker from Ohio had taken Riley.
Galveston authorities said they will review the case to determine the possibility of other charges against Trenor and Zeigler.