PALMDALE – A Palmdale man has pleaded no contest to beating to death his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter last September, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.
Matthew Worthen, 24, entered his plea Wednesday to one count of second-degree murder before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Blanchard. Worthen made his plea shortly before jury selection was set to begin.
The case stems from the death of 2-year-old Zanai Noel, who passed away on Sept. 22, 2013 after she was left in Worthen’s care for only a few minutes.
At a preliminary court hearing in February, a medical examiner testified that Baby Zanai received forceful blows to her back and side, and she died a short time later from multiple internal injuries, including five broken and displaced ribs, a collapsed lung, a shredded liver and internal bleeding. (Read more here.)
Worthen had a history of domestic violence with the child’s mother. He was arrested for allegedly choking the child’s mother about two months prior to Baby Zanai’s death, and there was a restraining order in place, homicide detectives said previously.
“I was ashamed that I was still with Matthew,” Baby Zanai’s mother said, in testifying at the preliminary court hearing in February.
She testified that Worthen had moved out of her apartment about two months prior to her daughter’s death, but on Sept. 22, she invited Worthen over because she was still trying to maintain a relationship with him.
Worthen is scheduled to return to court Sept. 8 when he is expected to be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
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