Manslaughter Plea in Death of Girl, 2

An El Cajon landscaper pleaded guilty Friday to involuntary manslaughter and felony child abuse that resulted in the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.

Gary Griffith, 36, could be sentenced to a maxiumum of nine years in state prison when he is sentenced Jan. 18 in San Diego Superior Court.

Griffith was originally charged with murdering Carla Nelson on May 26, 1989, but the murder charge was dismissed by Judge William Mudd in a plea bargain. Deputy Dist. Atty. Sally Penso said there were no eyewitnesses to the massive head injuries received by the girl.

She suffered a skull fracture and could have been hit with a blunt object, said Penso, but no such weapon was ever found.


The girl’s mother, Debbie Mahan, testified on Sept. 5, 1989, at Griffith’s preliminary hearing that Griffith told her the child fell and hit her head on the concrete floor in the garage as he was taking groceries into their El Cajon residence.

Mahan said then that she didn’t believe Griffith would have harmed her child.

An El Cajon police officer testified that Griffith told him the girl had tried to carry a 12-pack of soda into the house when she fell backward, hitting her head on the floor.

Griffith was arrested days later and was arraigned in the hospital, where he had been taken for treatment of self-inflicted wounds to his wrists.

Griffith now remains free on a $250,000 bond.