A woman convicted of killing her toddler son four years ago and telling police he had been kidnapped before his remains were found buried in the yard of her New Jersey home has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Jurors in Cumberland County last month convicted 28-year-old Nakira Griner of Bridgeton of charges of first-degree murder, desecration of remains, evidence-tampering and false public alarm in the February 2019 death of 23-month-old Daniel Griner Jr.
Family members tearfully expressed their grief in last week’s sentencing hearing and a judge delivered a blistering assessment of her actions before imposing the life-without-parole term and concurrent terms for desecration and false public alarm, NJ.com reported.
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Authorities said Griner initially told police in February 2019 that she had been attacked on the street and 23-month-old Daniel Griner Jr. had been abducted. An intensive search began but the child’s burnt remains were found the next day in the yard of her home, and an autopsy concluded that he had been beaten to death, authorities said.
Prosecutors said that Griner later told police that the child accidentally fell down a flight of stairs in the family home, but she said in phone calls from jail that she "did what she did to him" to cover up bruising on his body.
Defense attorney Jill Cohen acknowledged that her client dismembered and burned the child’s body but argued that prosecutors couldn’t prove she was directly responsible for his death and therefore could be convicted of nothing more than manslaughter. Cohen has said she intends to appeal the verdict.
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Family members attending the sentencing hearing wore buttons bearing a picture of the happy little boy, and several addressed the court, calling the defendant selfish and uncaring. Griner didn't look up and declined to speak when given the chance to address the court.
"He was my precious grandson … such a sweet child and you stole him away from me," said Patricia Uhland, Daniel’s paternal grandmother. "You had no thought of how your actions would destroy our entire world. You’re a monster."
"Our family has lost so much that we will never get back," Daniel’s cousin, Gabrielle Nutt, said tearfully. "Strangers have wept for our Daniel, but not his own mother. Not one tear."
Superior Court Judge George Gangloff Jr. called her crimes "beyond comprehension."
"You shattered his skull into dozens of pieces, you fractured his ribs, then after his death you put his remains in an oven and cooked, baked or incinerated him," Gangloff said. "Whatever verb you choose, they’re all equally horrible."
He told the aspiring YouTube personality who posted about fashion and other topics that she knew one day she would get the attention that she wanted "but you didn’t think it was going to be like this."