Dad's trial starts in NJ girl's creek-toss death

FILE - This file photo provided by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office shows Arthur Morgan III, 27, of Ocean Township, N.J. The murder trial will begin Wednesday morning March 12, 2014 in Freehold for the New Jersey man charged with tossing his 2-year-old daughter into a creek while still strapped into her car seat in 2011. (AP Photo/Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, File)

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — The murder trial of a man charged with tossing his 2-year-old daughter into a creek while still strapped into her car seat began Wednesday with opening statements.

Arthur Morgan III of Eatontown is accused of weighing down the seat with a tire-changing jack so it would sink. He is charged with killing his daughter, Tierra Morgan-Glover.

Her body was found partially submerged in a creek at Shark River Park in Wall Township, about 20 miles north of her Lakehurst home, on Nov. 22, 2011. Prosecutors say Morgan had asked the girl's mother if he could take Tierra to see a movie about dancing penguins. When he didn't return her after a few hours, the mother, Imani Benton, called police.

In addition to the murder charge, Morgan is charged with interference with custody and child endangerment. He faces a maximum sentence of life without parole, plus 15 years to be served consecutively, if convicted.

According to prosecutors, Morgan tossed the car seat, with his daughter strapped snugly inside its protective belts, from an overpass into the chilly water of the creek. To ensure that it sank, he had attached a car jack, the heavy metal contraption used to raise a car's chassis to change a flat tire, prosecutors said.

Her cause of death was listed as "homicidal violence, including submersion in water." An autopsy determined that the child was alive when she hit the water.

Morgan fled to California following the child's death and was found in San Diego by a fugitive recovery task force. He was the subject of a nationwide manhunt and had been featured on the website of "America's Most Wanted" after Tierra's body was found.