Man pleads guilty in Polk County toddler's murder

A Cedartown man has pled guilty in the tragic death of Polk County toddler Ella Grayce Pointer.

Dustin Putnal has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of ever being released on parole, the Polk County District Attorney's Office announced on Thursday.

On October 28, 2016, Polk County Police and EMS personnel were dispatched to Putnal's apartment at 45 Adamson Drive where they found the child not breathing. She was taken to Polk Medical Center in critical condition and then flown to Egleston, where she later died.

The girl's grandfather said the family was told by staff at the hospital that Ella Grayce had been beaten and assaulted. Putnal was charged with a number of crimes including murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and felony cruelty to children.

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District Attorney Jack Browning said the resolution of Putnal's case was with the approval and blessing of Ella Grayce's family. The DA said the guilty plea follows a recent ruling in the case by the Georgia Supreme Court in which the Supreme Court wrote "the information that the trial court erroneously revealed to the prosecution team cannot simply be extracted from the minds of those with whom it has been improperly shared … [and] although it is impossible to know with certainty before trial whether and to precisely what extent Putnal has been prejudiced, it is conceivable that, without additional curative measures, he could turn out to have been prejudiced to an extent that would require any conviction or sentence to be set aside."

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DA Browning said the case has been a nightmare for the family.

"Ella's family has made clear that they approve of this sentence because it brings certain and definite closure, without the worry of appeal-after-appeal-after-appeal over the next unknown number of years, and now they can live their lives without the constant fear that Putnal's conviction might be overturned for some reason and he be allowed to go free," Browning said in a news release Thursday morning.

Browning also said although the sentence was not what he believed Putnal deserved, it provided the victim's family with closure and comfort knowing that it's over.

"Ella Grayce was so precious, such a beautiful child. She was always laughing and giggling and playing," grandmother Dorothy Garner previously said.