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Man gets life for tot's death
Verdict comes after three hours
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Forsyth County News

Attorneys for a man sentenced to life in prison for the beating death of a 2-year-old in February 2009 plans to appeal his conviction.

John Rife, one of two attorneys who represented Christopher Brian Gilreath in the case, said Thursday they plan to file an appeal.

“We’re disappointed of course,” Rife said. “We thought there was a viable alternative to what really happened. The jury has spoken, we respect that the jury has spoken and we’ll be pursuing all avenues available to our client.”

Wednesday, a Forsyth County Superior Court jury found Gilreath guilty of murder, two counts of felony murder and aggravated battery in the death of 2-year-old Joshua Pinckney.

The jury deliberated for about three hours. The 41-year-old Gilreath was also convicted on two counts of first-degree cruelty to children and possession of cocaine.

Gilreath, who did not testify during the trial, declined to address the court before his sentencing. His family members sobbed as the verdict was read.

A life sentence is the mandatory punishment for murder.

“This is a particularly heinous crime,” said Forsyth County Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley.

He said children are the most helpless members of society and to “put a child through the agony this one went through deserves the stiffest of punishments.”

Forsyth County Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandy Partridge said she was pleased with the jury’s verdict.

“We believe that Joshua got justice (Wednesday),” she said. “Drug abuse is not a victimless crime. This would likely have not happened had (Gilreath) not been using crack cocaine. Joshua is a victim of crack cocaine.”

District Attorney Penny Penn added that the murder of a child is "always horrible.”

“The defendant’s conviction holding him accountable provides some measure of justice,” she said.

Rife had suggested in his closing arguments that it was possible the boy’s adoptive mother, Miriam Pinckney, killed him.

On Aug. 4, Pinckney pleaded guilty to a child cruelty charge for not seeking medical treatment for the toddler. She is serving a five-year sentence.

Pinckney found the child dead in his bed on Feb. 13, 2009, at the family's Catalina Drive home.

During the trial, which lasted a week, Pinckney testified that she’d left the boy and his younger adopted sister in Gilreath’s care the day before while she worked in Atlanta.

When she came home for lunch that day and again when she returned that evening, the boy was sound asleep.

Pinckney’s husband, John, testified that the couple had been separated several months at the time of the boy’s death and are in the process of a divorce. He said their adopted daughter is living with him in South Carolina.

A medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified that Joshua Pinckney died of blunt force injury to his head.

An autopsy revealed the boy had suffered at least five to six blows to the head and had bruises all over his body and face.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s investigators testified that they found three metal pipes, often used for smoking crack cocaine, in the trash behind the house.

GBI scientists testified that two of the pipes tested positive for cocaine, as did Gilreath’s urine.