JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man has been indicted in the October 2018 child-abuse death of his girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter.
On Thursday, a Duval County grand jury returned an indictment charging Jonte Harris, 27, with first-degree murder in the death of Zykerria Robinson.
Harris entered a plea of not guilty to felony second-degree murder following his arrest last year.
Safe Haven of Northeast Florida Founder and Chief Executive Officer Kathy Swafford, who has been by the family's side since Zykerria's death, said they are hoping the indictment will be one step closer to justice.
"He needs to do the time," Swafford told News4Jax on Friday, the day after the State Attorney's Office announced the indictment. "He should be charged with first-degree murder.”
Harris is the boyfriend of Zykerria’s mother, 26-year-old Michelle Cannimore, who is charged with second-degree murder, child abuse and child neglect in the girl's death. Cannimore entered a plea of not guilty to those charges after her arrest last year.
Zykerria died after Cannimore told police that Harris repeatedly struck the girl in the face until she lost consciousness, according to a police report. Cannimore left her daughter on the couch unconscious for nearly five hours before taking her to a hospital, where she died, the report said. An autopsy found the cause of death was blunt impact head trauma.
Swafford said Zykerria’s death has been difficult for the girl's sister, who witnessed what happened.
“They went to Walmart one time and they were buying her clothes and she was picking out clothes for her sister and then realized she was no longer there, so she started crying and putting the clothes up," Swafford said.
When asked what she wanted Harris to know, Swafford said, “That we’re going to push for the death penalty."
"I know he’s got that on the table and we’re hoping that he does get it," Swafford said. "We want to make sure he pays the price.”
Swafford said the family is hoping Cannimore’s second-degree murder charge will be upgraded to first-degree, as well.
According to the State Attorney's Office, Harris is also charged with aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse.
Both Harris and Cannimore remain in the Duval County jail, where they're being held without bond.
In addition to Harris, the Duval County grand jury Thursday returned indictments, charging four other men with first-degree murder.