A Marion County judge handed down a not-guilty verdict Wednesday in the case of a man charged in the killing of his girlfriend and 9-month-old daughter.
Prosecutors had built a case against Joshwa Carlisle, 23, based on circumstantial evidence because of a lack of physical evidence.
Prosecutors had argued that Carlisle killed Tracie Shannon, 25, and Juliana Carlisle in September 2010.
The victims were found in their apartment home in the 5500 block of Old Colony Road, near 56th Street and Interstate 465, after a fire that investigators determined had been intentionally set.
Police said the baby had accelerant poured on her chest and was burned alive and that Shannon was smothered.
Attorneys representing Carlisle waived his right to a jury trial earlier this month.
Defense attorneys argued that Carlisle was innocent, that there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime and that DNA found on Shannon was because the two had been intimate.
Tracie Shannon and her daughter, Juliana
"The original thoughts of the police and the state was my client had sex with her and then killed her right after that," said defense attorney David Shircliff. "Clearly, the DNA experts indicated that had to be a minimum of six hours old, and the maximum is 72 hours from the time of death. Clearly, that DNA didn't put my client in the apartment that day."
Judge Mark Stoner said there is a special place in hell reserved for the person who killed Shannon and the child, but that based on the evidence, he could not find Carlisle guilty.
The victims' family members were devastated. At least one passed out right after the verdict was read, and others were so overwhelmed that they had to be helped to elevators.
"We were just stunned. We're hurt," said Joanna Humphries, Shannon's aunt. "We're sad. We're in disbelief now."
Prosecutors said that shortly before the fire, a paternity test had confirmed that Carlisle was Juliana's father, and a court had ordered him to pay Shannon $200 a week in child support. Carlisle had just lost a job at Best Buy and did not want to pay child support, officials said.
Carlisle left the courthouse quickly after the verdict. Shircliff said his client hopes to return to his job in the National Guard.
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