Brandon, Miss. A man accused of wresting a 7-year-old's life jacket away from her and leaving her to drown in the choppy waters of a Mississippi lake went on trial Monday for murder.
Defense attorneys say Troy Carlisle was trying to save Dallas Reinhardt when she and her 4-year-old brother, both wearing life jackets, began drifting away from their stepfather's boat during a May 7 outing at Arkabutla Lake, in the northwest Mississippi.
Prosecutors say the girl would have been fine and Carlisle caused her death when he stripped her of her life jacket to save himself.
Dallas began screaming: "Quit, quit, you're drowning me," Kenny Peeples, the girl's step-father, testified Monday as he described how he had jumped in to rescue the boy while his friend swam out to Dallas.
"I told him to let her go," Peeples said. "She was going to be fine. He needed to save himself and swim to shore."
Defense attorney Jack Jones said Carlisle, 28, had jumped in with good intentions, but got caught in strong current and realized the only way to save the child was to save himself first.
He took Dallas' life jacket and held the girl's wrist, Jones said. But with 2- to 3-foot waves knocking at the two, he couldn't hold on.
"He jumped in with a good heart," Jones said. "He did not kill that little girl. He tried to save her."
Carlisle was charged under a 130-year-old Mississippi law called "depraved heart" murder.
The law prohibits murder "when done in the commission of an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved heart."
If convicted, Carlisle could face life in prison.