Mother sentenced in daughter's murder

POPLARVILLE, MS (WDAM) - The mother of a 12-year-old Pearl River County girl has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for her part in the brutal rape and torture of her own child.

Christina Dillard, 38, pleaded guilty last month to culpable negligence manslaughter in connection with the beating death of her daughter, Ashley Andrews.

Shaun Dillard, 30, the girl's stepfather, had already been sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting in Ashley's death. He was charged with statutory rape, sexual battery and capital murder.

Prosecutors said the girl was beaten with tree limbs, a fishing rod, and a belt over a two-day period in October of 2005. During that time she had been raped and tortured in other ways while bound in a bathroom.

The girl did not show up for school, which led to an investigation and the eventual arrests.

"This is one of the most tragic and sad cases I've seen in my (nine) years of prosecuting," District Attorney Hal Kittrell said.

The cause of death was listed as manual strangulation.

The mother received the maximum sentence allowed with the charges for which she was found guilty.