Texas father charged with murder of 3-year-old daughter

The victim’s family says the little girl and her four siblings were abused almost every day

A Texas father has been jailed on aggravated assault charges after causing fatal injuries to his three-year-old daughter. 

Billy Ray Joiner, 22, is also charged with evading arrest after he was detained on Monday in connection with the injuries that led to the death of his daughter, Elena Rae Joiner, PEOPLE reports. 

The day before her death, Elena was severely burned with scalding hot water. On Sunday, Joiner repeatedly hit her at their Fort Worth home, causing Elena Rae to suffer a heart attack due to her injuries and go into cardiac arrest, per the report. She was transported to the local hospital and declared brain dead.

The victim’s family says Elena and her four siblings were abused daily and that Texas Child Protective Services failed the children.

“This is not just some guy that flipped out and went insane one day,” said Elena’s great-aunt Latisha Carter. “The state of Texas failed my nieces and my nephews.”

Elena Rae Joiner, Billy Ray Joiner Jr. / YouTube screenshot

The other children have now been removed from the home, Star-Telegram reports. 

“Now they want to pull the kids, yes, and I get that because now one is dead but [she] could not be dead right now,” Carter said.

“[CPS] could have saved them five years ago when all this started with him,” she said.

“DFPS is investigating the child’s death, alongside law enforcement, looking into all allegations,” a representative with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said in a statement. “There is history, but the details are confidential, per state law. We have four surviving siblings in our care, and we’re making sure their needs are being met.”

Carter said the caseworkers were repeatedly warned by family members and neighbors that the children were at great risk of being mortally injured. Child protective services were called as recently as two months ago and asked to step in, according to the report.

On Sunday, Elena’s mother reportedly told Fort Worth police that Joiner repeatedly struck the child, leaving her severely injured before she died at the hospital. An investigation is currently underway, and the autopsy is pending.

“Detectives have been in contact with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the manner and cause of death, and advised the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office of the situation,” police said in the statement Thursday.

Joiner has a history of violence, including a previous case in which he allegedly choked his girlfriend. He received five years of probation as part of a plea deal. He is currently facing charges of aggravated assault related to a December 2020 incident involving a witness that he reportedly threatened with a gun.

Billy Rae Joiner (Tarrant County Correction Center)

A GoFundMe was created to help funeral expenses for Elena but was taken offline once the fundraiser raised a little over one thousand dollars.

“My niece would not be laying dead right now if it wasn’t for so many mistakes that CPS has made, so many mistakes,” Carter said.

“She was a normal 3-year-old,” the child’s aunt, Miranda Malonetold WFAA. “She just wanted to play, to be loved. She didn’t deserve this. We want justice for her.”

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