N.J. Man Convicted of Killing Baby Sitter, 12, to Cover Up Alleged Sexual Assault

A man was convicted of murder Thursday for intentionally running over a 12-year-old baby sitter to keep her from talking about their time spent together.

George Ford Jr., 44, a contractor from Piscataway, N.J., was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Shyanne Somers. The verdict was read by Broome County Judge Joseph Cawley Jr. after a non-jury trial.

The girl's family left the courthouse without commenting.

Prosecutors said Ford was high on cocaine when he killed Shyanne to stop her from talking about what transpired during hours she spent alone with Ford before her death on an upstate New York road on July 8, 2007. The bulk of the prosecution's case was based on a GPS tracking device hidden in Ford's pickup truck by his estranged wife, who suspected he was having an affair.

"Thank God for Mrs. Ford, because when she gave us that GPS it told us where he was and what he did and proved that there was no accident there and that it was a homicide," Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride said.

Ford testified that he accidentally hit the girl after showing her his horses, which were boarded in a pasture 45 miles north of Binghamton. A doctor testified that an autopsy showed the girl died of severe traumatic injuries to her head and chest.

"He didn't kill her on purpose. It was an accident," defense attorney Randel Scharf said, adding that he felt prosecutors failed to prove intent to cause her death. "George feels terrible. He feels bad for the family. He feels bad for himself."

Scharf said he planned to appeal, but added the issues for appeal would be limited because it was a non-jury trial.

Ford's route on the night that Shyanne was killed was recorded by the GPS system, which Cindy Ford told the court she bought and placed under the front passenger's seat of the truck without her husband's knowledge.

Prosecutors, using the GPS data, showed that Ford never went to the pasture, but instead spent more than three hours behind an abandoned farmhouse a half-mile from where the girl was killed.

Investigators testified that Shyanne got away from Ford, who chased her and deliberately ran her down shortly after 3 a.m.

Scharf argued there was no evidence of any inappropriate contact between Ford and Shyanne and that the Somers' insurance company determined in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family that Shyanne's death was accidental.

McBride said while he was not able to prove that the girl was sexually assaulted, he noted: "There are a lot of sexual offenses that occur without physical evidence."

"The facts were overwhelming that whatever he did with this young child from 12 o'clock at night until 3 in the morning, there is no other conclusion than that what he did was inappropriate," he said.

Ford, who faces a minimum of 15 years to life up to a maximum 25 year to life in state prison, will be sentenced May 18. He spent 4 1/2 years in state prison in Arizona in the 1990s on a drug-related conviction.