JVG_200315_VIGIL06

Jennifer Streuly, left, is comforted after reading a letter she wrote to her daughter, Jaylee Conaway, at a vigil held in her memory on March 14, 2020, at the town square in downtown Janesville.

JANESVILLE

A Rock County judge on Friday denied a motion to dismiss the reckless homicide charge against a Janesville man accused of killing a 15-month-old girl in March.

Steven M. Horan, 31, of 526 Eisenhower Ave., is charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Jaylee Conaway, whom he was caring for in the early morning hours of March 7. The girl died two days later at Javon Bea Hospital in Rockford, Illinois.

Judge John Wood on Friday said it was “rather obvious from these facts and circumstances” that there was enough evidence to get the prosecution’s case through a preliminary hearing.

The threshold to get beyond that hearing is essentially probable cause that Horan was responsible for the girl’s death. It’s not the same threshold needed for a conviction, Wood pointed out.

Walter Isaacson, one of the attorneys representing Horan, argued that the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing was insufficient because an official cause of death had not yet been determined.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Sullivan said Illinois has a different and longer process for getting death certificates than Wisconsin does. The Winnebago County Coroner’s Office is working on that because that is where Jaylee was pronounced dead March 9.

Police reported seeing multiple scrapes and bruises on Jaylee’s head, as well as bruises on one of her arms, according to the criminal complaint.

Horan was taking care of Jaylee while her mother worked March 6. When her mother came home between 8:30 and 9 p.m., she and Horan eventually got into an argument, the complaint states.

The mother, Jennifer Streuly, left the home for about 45 minutes and returned to see something was wrong, according to the complaint.

Horan has pleaded not guilty

Wood described testimony from a Janesville police detective who said the evidence pointed to Jaylee being in Horan’s care when she suffered “a great deal of trauma,” the judge said.

“I believe the testimony was over 24 injuries that appeared to be fresh, acute injuries or bruises,” Wood said, referring to the detective’s testimony.

Family and supporters of Jaylee held a vigil in March at the town square in downtown Janesville.

“You never deserved this. And I promise you, until I take my last breath, I’ll fight for justice for you,” Streuly said then.

The next hearing in the case was not scheduled during Friday’s video hearing.