(WBIR) The state will seek the death penalty against a Campbell County man accused of killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter, according to District Attorney General Lori Phillips-Jones.
Joshua Comer, 33, of LaFollete appeared in court Friday. Officials charged him with first-degree murder in the death of Gabriella Orton.
Phillips-Jones said Comer deserves the death penalty for three reasons: the victim was a young child, the evidence of aggravated child abuse, and the heinous nature of the crime.
"The detectives have worked extremely hard, and this is a very disturbing case of child abuse and neglect," said Phillips-Jones. "And I appreciate all the work of DCS and the detectives that worked long, hard hours to bring it to the grand jury and now to arraignment."
The victim's mother, Amber Leann Orton (aka Rezentes), 29, of LaFollette will also stand trial with Comer but will not face the death penalty. Officials charged Orton with aggravated child neglect.
"Unfortunately, child abuse is alive and well in our communities, and it's up to each and every one of us to protect our children," said Phillips-Jones.
Both Orton and Comer pleaded not guilty Friday, and the judge appointed them public defenders.
The state decided to try the couple together based on the evidence in the case. A trial date has not been scheduled at this time.