Father of slain toddler sues convicted Elwood killer
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org February 8, 2013 1:18PM
Updated: March 11, 2013 6:43AM
An Elwood man awaiting sentencing for killing his fiancee’s toddler also faces a million-dollar lawsuit from the girl’s biological father.
Lee K. Ponshe, 29, is facing mandatory life in prison for the murder of Halli R. Burton, 18 months. A Will County jury deliberated about two hours before convicting Ponshe on Dec. 18.
Last month, Halli’s father, Josh Burton, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ponshe in Greene County, where he lives.
The lawsuit seeks $1 million in punitive damages, as well as funeral and burial expenses.
Burton, who has started a scholarship fund in Halli’s name in his hometown of White Hall, Ill., declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The Halli Rose Burton Foundation was established after the girl’s death in 2009. It awards a $1,000 scholarship to a local, female high school senior who is planning to continue her education upon graduation.
Applicants submit an essay about child abuse and the recipient is chosen by Burton and his family, he said.
“I plan to do it as long as I can,” Burton said. “It’s a way for her name to live on.”
Halli Burton was the daughter of a woman Ponshe met on an Internet dating website and who had moved into his home days before.
Ponshe was engaged to Jessi Dunlap of White Hall, Ill. Prosecutors said he punched the toddler in the head and back after she woke up crying in the early morning of April 15, 2009, causing injuries that ultimately killed her.
While Dunlap said the toddler appeared to be fine the day after she was beaten, the girl slipped into a coma during an evening nap, prosecutors said.
A doctor testified during Ponshe’s trial that the girl’s brain had been gradually swelling since she was hit, which eventually stopped her breathing and her heart.
Ponshe initially told police he didn’t touch Burton, but later admitted he hit her twice in the head, prosecutors said.
Autopsy photos showed upward of 20 bruises covering the toddler’s scalp.
Ponshe is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25 in Will County by Judge Daniel Rozak.
This week, Ponshe’s homeowner’s insurance company filed a document in Will County court saying it wants a judge to find that the company is not liable for the monetary damages sought by Burton’s lawsuit.