A Farmington woman was convicted Monday for knowingly leaving her toddler with her boyfriend last year despite signs that he abused the child, whom he eventually killed.
Lia Pearson, 38, waived her right to a jury trial and was tried two weeks ago before Ramsey County District Judge Leonardo Castro. Pearson's daughter, Genesis Xiong, was found dead in a Maplewood home on Feb. 12, 2015.
Castro issued convictions on both counts against Pearson — child endangerment and second-degree manslaughter. Her boyfriend, Leb Mike Meak, is serving 25 years in prison for fatally beating the 17-month-old.
"My family and I are relieved to hear about the verdicts," Genesis' paternal aunt, Mala Vue, said in a written statement. "Lia indeed is the wolf in sheep's clothing. We are happy that others were able to see past her lies. Though no amount of time can bring back our Genesis, my brother and the rest of my family can have a little bit of closure."
Genesis' older sister, who is 4, is living with the girls' father. Pearson has two older children from a previous marriage who are living with their father.
Genesis suffered dozens of bruises across her body, a broken rib and extensive damage to her internal organs, according to courtroom testimony from Dr. Victor Froloff, assistant Ramsey County medical examiner.
Pearson knew that Meak was abusing the toddler but left her in his care anyway, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Tanya O'Brien argued at trial. When police were called to the man's home last year, they found Genesis dead from multiple blunt-force injuries.
"It's a lot of injury for a child," said Froloff, who performed Genesis' autopsy.
Meak testified at his plea hearing that he punched, squeezed and threw the girl after she made a mess.
Froloff testified that Genesis had both old and new injuries that contributed to her death, including bruising to her diaphragm and a healing rib that had been freshly broken a second time.
Genesis suffered bruising to her face, head, the front of her body and her arms and legs. Cuts to the inside of her lips were consistent with someone pressing a hand over her mouth, Froloff testified.
Pearson started occasionally leaving Genesis with Meak in January 2015.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Justin Richardson argued that Pearson ignored warnings from Meak's two sons that Meak was abusing Genesis.
Pearson's attorney, Patricia Hughes, said in her opening statement that her client loved Meak and had no reason to suspect abuse. Hughes called Meak "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
Pearson, who was booked and then released on her own recognizance when the charges were filed, will be allowed to remain out of custody pending her sentencing on Jan. 26.
Pearson did not return a message seeking comment.
"Genesis will forever be in our hearts …," Vue said. "She is dancing with the angels."