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Man found guilty of first degree murder, child abuse in Morgan Co. toddler death

After nearly three years, a jury decided the fate of the man who killed a three-year-old boy in Morgan County.

A Cass County jury found Thomas “T.J.” Presley guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder and child abuse. Presley beat Blake Litton to death the morning of February 16, 2012, while the boy’s mother, Jamie Litton, was at work. Presley and Jamie Litton were dating at the time.

During the three day trial, the pathologist who investigated Blake Litton’s death said the child died from internal bleeding in his liver. The pathologist also found blood on his brain. Presley told Morgan County authorities the morning of the crime that the child was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. However, crash investigators said Litton’s wounds did not match a typical car crash victim’s. His scars and bruises were too small, and his clothes featured no tears, other than the ones the pathologist performed for his autopsy.

Investigators claim Presley tried to cover up the abuse, claiming Blake was hit by another vehicle on Highway 135 after getting out of the car to use the bathroom.

Prosecutors also showed text messages sent between Presley and Jamie Litton the morning of Blake Litton’s death. Presley was frustrated that Litton would not go to sleep near 1 a.m., which caused Presley to “whoop” him.

As the morning progressed, Presley’s texts grew more frantic. He said Litton started turning purple and unresponsive after the beating. He feared potential prison time for the abuse. That fear, according to the texts, stopped him from calling an ambulance.

“I love u now and always will but I gotta go 4 good I cant do this im on my way 2 prison at this rate,” one text Presley sent Jamie Litton read.

The pathologist said Blake Litton could have survived his internal wounds had he received medical attention promptly.

Defense attorney Karie Comstock admitted the jury should find Presley guilty of child abuse. However, she argued against the first-degree murder charge based on “deliberation” to kill Litton.

“He doesn’t know withholding that medical treatment is going to kill that child,” Comstock said in her closing argument.

The sheriff’s department says Jamie Litton also helped Presley hide the murder from deputies. Her first-degree murder trial is scheduled for August in Laclede County.

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