Jury finds Joel Loffley guilty of toddler's murder

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 19:03 14/11/2012
JJ Lawrence
JJ LAWRENCE: The two-year-old died at his home in Auckland in November 2011.
Joel Loffley
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JOEL LOFFLEY: The 29-year-old found guilty of murdering two-year-old JJ Lawrence.

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One year on from the death of JJ Lawrence, the man accused of the toddler's brutal murder showed no emotion after he was found guilty in the High Court.

The jury returned with its verdict just before 3pm, convicting Joel Loffley of the murdering the two-year-old son of his then girlfriend, Josephine Lawrence.

Members of the public in the court burst into tears as the verdict was read, while Loffley showed no emotion as he was led to the cells.

JJ suffered horrendous injuries to his internal organs after being hit in the stomach. His liver and pancreas were forced onto his spine with such force they split in two.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hooper said unfortunately time ran out for JJ, but he commended the wider family for the actions they took.

"It's just sadder we didn't get there in time," he said."Sadly I anticipate right now there'll be similar situations throughout the country.

"All I hope is that people who know about this type of stuff let the appropriate people know."

The Crown had argued that Loffley assaulted the toddler on the morning of November 14, 2011, while Lawrence was absent from their east Auckland home.

Lawrence returned and found Loffley showering the boy before putting him to bed and leaving the house.

He told Lawrence JJ had fallen off the bed, onto his head.

The defence case relied on a witness who heard someone going into JJ's room while Loffley was out.

It was this person - probably Lawrence, the defence said - who fatally injured the toddler.

Defence lawyer Roger Chambers said Loffley knew it would be a "close run thing".

"He's always maintained his innocence and that is still his view but he's in a position where he has got to accept the verdict of the jury, he can't complain about it," he said.

The Crown's case had no eye witnesses but the jury used a number of "strands" to make their decision.

JJ received two broken arms and numerous other injuries once Loffley moved in with Lawrence.

Lawrence testified Loffley fed the boy marijuana smoke to get him stoned and assaulted her.

Other family members said JJ appeared scared of Loffley.

Once the police investigation into the death began, Loffley "modified" his accounts of what happened as the medical evidence revealed JJ died from stomach injuries.

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Loffley admitted assaulting his former partners to police but he rejected ever hurting JJ.

His uncle, Richard Lawrence, said the family is trying to keep it as low profile as they can until they all get "back up home to where JJ is and start our healing I suppose".

JJ's family plan to hold a special memorial for him on Monday, TVNZ reported.

Loffley was remanded in custody for sentencing on February 14.

- Auckland Now

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