Man faces life in girl’s death
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org February 22, 2013 3:05PM
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:41AM
On Monday, an Elwood man is scheduled to receive a life sentence in prison from a Will County judge for the murder of his ex-fiancee’s toddler.
But attorneys for Lee K. Ponshe, 29, will likely first argue that he deserves a new trial.
Ponshe was convicted of killing Halli R. Burton, the 18-month-old daughter of Ponshe’s former fiancee, Jessi Dunlap.
Dunlap, of White Hall, a small town southwest of Springfield, met Ponshe on the Internet.
Prosecutors say Ponshe hit 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.
Dunlap and her daughter had moved into Ponshe’s Elwood home days before the girl’s death.
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.
Attorneys Ira Goldstein and Gerry Kielian represented Ponshe during his December jury trial. Jurors returned a guilty verdict after two hours of deliberation.
Ponshe will automatically receive a life prison sentence because of the victim’s age, prosecutors said.
His sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday.
In their motion for a new trial, the lawyers listed 22 reasons Ponshe did not get a fair shake before Judge Daniel Rozak, including that the judge was “prejudiced and biased against defendant throughout trial.”
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.
After his daughter’s death, Burton created the Halli Rose Burton Foundation. 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.