Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 8, 2014

TC man found guilty in Kalamazoo toddler's death

TRAVERSE CITY — A Kalamazoo County jury found a Traverse City man guilty of felony murder and first-degree child abuse in a toddler's death.

Toren Hains, 22, stood for the verdict Tuesday in Ninth Circuit Court after an at-times wrenching trial. He was accused of slaying Zoie Johnston, a 14-month-old girl who died in his care on Dec. 30, 2012.

Authorities ruled Johnston's death a homicide after they said an autopsy showed she suffered a head injury. She also had alcohol and marijuana in her system.

The trial began April 29.

Assistant Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Diane Hungerford said three doctors who testified in the trial helped sway the jury toward a guilty verdict.

"In my discussion with 10 of the 12 jurors they found the expert testimony to be quite compelling," she said. "This child suffered as a result of child abuse."

Hains, a Traverse City native, babysat for the child in an Oshtemo Township apartment while her mother worked. Hains' attorney Keith Turpel didn't return a call for comment.

Felony murder carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

"Zoie Johnston was never going to come back," Hungerford said. "By this verdict, Toren Hains is going to suffer for the rest of his life. Ultimately, we need 12 strong jurors to live with a verdict of this nature."

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 2.

Hungerford expects Hains to appeal the verdict.

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