'My baby was left on the side of the road': Foul play suspected after missing Kenner girl found dead in St. Rose ditch _lowres

Jorion White

The Kenner man charged with murdering his stepdaughter and dumping her body in a St. Rose drainage ditch last year is expected to learn his fate Friday, a day after a family friend took the witness stand at his trial and described his attempts to thwart search efforts for the girl when she was missing.

Daniel Beckley, 41, opted against testifying in his own defense Thursday, when St. Charles Parish prosecutors John Chaisson and Howie Peters rested their second-degree murder and obstruction of justice case against him. He faces mandatory life imprisonment if he is convicted of murdering 16-year-old Jorion White, whom he is also suspected of sexually abusing.

Beckley waived his right to a jury trial, choosing for his case to be decided by 29th Judicial District Court Judge Tim Marcel.

The first two days of a trial that began Tuesday have largely centered on why authorities came to suspect Beckley shortly after White's body was discovered. But part of Thursday focused on why a family friend believed Beckley had killed his stepdaughter even while the girl was still considered missing.

White's mother, Michelle Price, left the teen in the care of Beckley, her longtime boyfriend, at the Kenner home they shared while she began working her overnight job after 9 p.m. April 21, 2016. White failed to show up to school the next morning or return home in the afternoon, and she was reported as a runaway while a group of loved ones passed out homemade missing posters in search of her.

Price's best friend, Katrice Reed, testified Thursday that Beckley dismissed the idea of posters as silly because it could tip off "whoever had" White that the teen's absence was noted. He also made ominous remarks, such as she might not be found because "she bit off more than she could chew."

Another remark was something to the effect of, "What happened to (White) happened because she thought she was big and bad," Reed said.

She added, "I feel now like he was confessing to me without really confessing," Reed said.

A passing motorist later spotted White's nude body in a relatively remote stretch of St. Rose on April 24, 2016. When word got out on social media that someone had reported finding a body that White's loved ones worried was her, Reed asked Beckley to call the St. Charles Sheriff's Office — but he insisted he couldn't get through because the line was busy.

Reed ultimately made the call and managed to confirm the body was White's because the girl had distinctive pink rollers on as well as an abdominal scar from a surgery. While she was on the phone with the Sheriff's Office, she said Beckley was unusually skittish, pressing his cheek up against hers as if to listen in on her conversation.

One of Beckley's attorneys, Jake Lemmon, asked Reed on Thursday if Beckley's behavior could've been because he was in the early stage of grief over losing his stepdaughter.

"That's not my appreciation," Reed said. "I (think) the guilt got to him. He started acting nervous."

Shortly after White's death was confirmed, as many as 150 people soon showed up at her home, with some trying to break in and kill Beckley as they shouted that he had murdered her. One relative of Price approached a cop at the scene and said she feared Beckley may have killed White because the girl believed Beckley may have gotten her pregnant.

There's been no evidence suggesting White was pregnant, but authorities later found his semen on her body, which was too decomposed for investigators to ever determine exactly how she was killed. 

Before he was eventually arrested, Beckley agreed to a videotaped interview with investigators, and he insisted he was innocent in a recording played in court Wednesday.

But some of Beckley's remarks apparently made authorities believe he may have been jealous over text messages that he claimed suggested White was sleeping with multiple boys. He admitted the thought infuriated him because he provided her with possessions such as a computer tablet and would be with her at the hospital when she was ailing.

According to prosecutors, investigators ultimately recovered a mound of evidence implicating him, including extra-wide tire tracks near his stepdaughter's body matching those on his vehicle, in which White's blood was found.

A search of Beckley's car turned up a plastic cap that perfectly fit onto the S-shaped hook of a green bungee cord found near White's body.

And surveillance camera footage showed Beckley's car was in the general area of where White's body had been discarded — a spot he never mentioned visiting.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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