OREGON CITY, Ore. -- A jury Friday found four adult members of the Ecclesia Athletic Association guilty of manslaughter in the beating death of the 8-year-old daughter of the religous group's founder.
The Clackamas County jury returned its verdict shortly before 5 p.m. after deliberating for more than 10 hours over two days.
Willie Chambers, 35, Brian Brinson, 31, Constance Jackson, 38, and Frederick Doolittle, 28, stood silently before Judge John Lowe as the verdicts were read.
Each was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Dayna Broussard, daughter of Los Angeles minister Eldridge Broussard Jr. The convictions could result in prison terms of up to 20 years but no sentencing date was set. The four were taken to jail.
Testimony in the three-week trial indicated the girl was struck several hundred times during a discipline session watched by more than 50 other children who belonged to the group. The girl was beaten because she stole food from another child.
The jury got the case late Thursday following closing arguments and final instructions from Clackamas County Circuit Judge John Lowe.
In closing arguments a prosecutor said Thursday the child was 'tortured' during a 'theatrical show' staged for other children in the group.
'Little Dayna Lorae Broussard was tortured with torture instruments. What else can you call them?' Deputy District Attorney Alfred French III said in his closing arguments, referring to the bamboo rod, plastic pipe, hose, weightlifter's belt and braided electrical cord used on the child.
Ecclesia members testified the group was brought together by religion and a desire to educate their children outside crime-ridden south-central Los Angeles. The group maintained two Oregon farmhouses as training centers.
Rigorous athletic and religious training for the children was a key part of Broussards's teachings. The group's activities in Sandy drew criticism from neighbors who saw children toiling in the fields or standing at attention for long periods in the sun.
Within hours of the girl's death, the state took into protective custody the other 53 Ecclesia children, some of whom had been brought from the group's Clackamas house to the one near Sandy to witness the discipline session.
Several Ecclesia children testified for the prosecution that Broussard was beaten from 200 to 845 times, but other adults and children called by the defense said there were only 50 to 100 blows.
The prosecutor said Oregon Medical Examiner Dr. Larry Lewman, who testified for the state, and former state medical examiner Dr. William Brady, who conducted an autopsy for the defense, determined the child died of 'blunt trauma injury.'
But Brady claimed other factors contributed to her death and said asphyxiation occurred when the child was hung face down over a window sill for fresh air.
'The events began with punishing Dayna Broussard for taking a piece of zucchini from another child's plate and being obstinate about it,' French said. 'It escalated to terrorizing the other children.'
Defense attorney Jack Bernstein, representing Doolittle, said in closing arguments that the prosecution did not prove Dayna Broussard died of a beating, citing Brady's testimony.
Another defense lawyer, Ron Thom, said after the verdict the defense had been hoping for a conviction on a lesser charge of negligent homicide.
'We were hoping the jury would believe Dr. Brady,' he said.
He said no decision had been made on an appeal.