On Monday afternoon a jury in Chautauqua County Court returned the verdict of not guilty on the charges of second-degree murder and first degree manslaughter against 35-year-old Tyler Perez.
The verdict was the culmination of a five-year investigation into the April 2014 death of Nayla Hodnett, who died of blunt force trauma after being taken to the hospital by her mother. The DA’s office had argued that Perez was the last person to care for the child and as a result was responsible for her death.
According to the Post-Journal, the verdict was announced less than an hour after jury deliberations began. The trial itself lasted only three days from the time opening statements were given Thursday morning to the time that the verdict was read Monday afternoon.
No concrete evidence was provided by the prosecution that could definitely prove Perez was responsible for the injuries that lead to the death of Hodnett. Instead the DA’s office relied on the fact that the child was last in Perez’s care before her mother brought her to the hospital.
Perez maintained his innocence for the last five years and even rejected a plea deal from the prosecution on the opening day of trial.
Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson released a statement following the verdict, saying that While he disagrees with the verdict, he has tremendous respect for the work of the jury and the legal process.