Toddler's death case goes to grand jury

LEESBURG, Ga. -- After considering testimony and evidence, Lee County Chief Magistrate Jim Thurman Wednesday found probable cause to hold Thomas Alan Darling for the grand jury in the death of a 2-year-old.

Lila Grace Newman died April 23 because her abdomen caught a blunt force blow that "caused a laceration and near transection of her liver," said Lewis Lamb, assistant district attorney. "Only about 3/8 of an inch of liver tissue held her liver together. She bled to death internally."

In a later hearing Wednesday, Darling was denied bail and held in Lee County Jail to face a grand jury, Lamb said.

The next regular grand jury meeting is scheduled for October, Lamb said. However, an interim grand jury could be convened before then to hear the Darling case and others, he added.

Lamb plans to present a case against Darling to the grand jury that includes charges of murder, cruelty to children in the first degree and possession of controlled substances. More charges could be added to the list, Lamb added.

"There is evidence that at least 15 minutes before she was hit in the abdomen, she received blows to the head," lamb said. "There is also a third set of injuries around the mouth, most likely caused by holding a hand firmly over the child's mouth."

When investigators arrived in response to a 911 call, they found Lila unconscious and not breathing on the floor of Darling's residence at 121 Knollwood Drive in Lee County.

Lila's mother, Candice Michele Smith, lives in Camilla and her father, Robert Douglas Lyons, in Cairo, according to authorities.