Stepfather guilty of JJ's murder
By Simon Shepherd and 3 News online staff
One year to the day after the death of Auckland toddler JJ Lawrence, his stepfather has been found guilty of murder.
Joel Loffley was convicted for what the judge said was a violent, distressing attack that split the two-year-old's pancreas and liver.
The jury took seven-and-a-half hours to convict Loffley.
They returned just once in that time to ask about the definition of 'intent' just before and during the alleged attack. Justice Keane said to find Loffley had acted intentionally, the jury must be satisfied that he had accepted the risk of causing serious to injury to JJ before and during inflicting the blow.
The prosecution said JJ's injuries were so bad it was like he'd been hit with a hammer, and Justice Keane acknowledged it was a hard case for the jury.
Prosecutor Phil Hamiln said a "jealous" Loffley killed the boy because he wanted him out of the picture after partner Josephine Lawrence told Loffley she was pregnant with his child.
"It is difficult to think of a more distressing case than cases of this kind," says Justice Keane.
JJ's family says it is now regrouping on such a sad anniversary.
"That's why we are trying to keep it as low profile as we can, until we can get back home and start our healing I suppose," says JJ's uncle Richard Lawrence.
Police say the wider family had raised concerns about JJ's welfare with his mum Josie Lawrence and authorities.
"Unfortunately time ran out for JJ, but I do commend the wider family for the action they took," says Det Insp Kevin Hooper, and he believes there are similar cases throughout the country.
"All I hope [is] people who know about this let the appropriate people know."
Loffley will be sentenced on February 14, although he maintains his innocence.
"That's still his view, but… he has to accept the verdict of the jury," says his lawyer, Roger Chambers. "He cant complain… but I will talk to him and see what we can do."
JJ's family now says it has room to grieve until that February sentencing, and part of the process is a private memorial next Monday for the two-year-old.