When Eman Moss took the witness stand Thursday, he glanced over at his wife, Tiffany Moss.
Eman Moss was wearing a green prison jump suit, his hands and feet shackled with chains that clanged as he walked across the courtroom. Tiffany Moss was seated alone at the defense table, representing herself in a Gwinnett County death penalty trial in which she’s accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter to death in the fall of 2013.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, Eman Moss gave harrowing, spellbinding testimony about Emani’s final days and the gruesome aftermath when he and his wife tried to dispose of the young girl’s body. During the testimony, one juror covered his face, while others brought their hands up to their mouths.
Eman Moss, the state’s star witness, told jurors he was at work in late October 2013 when his wife called and said Emani was dead. When he got home, he found his daughter lying on a blanket on the floor of her bedroom.
“She was dead,” he said. “She was cold. Her essence wasn’t there. She was gone.”
Moss, 35, is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole for his role in Emani’s death. He pleaded guilty in August 2015 and agreed to testify against his wife if the state wouldn’t seek the death penalty against him.
Just days before Emani died, Eman Moss said, he returned home from work and found his daughter in the bathtub. She was shaking as if having a seizure and her eyes were rolling from side to side.
Instead of calling 911, he said, he put his daughter on a mattress on the bedroom floor.
When asked why he didn’t call a doctor, Moss said he couldn’t explain it.
“I’m not God,” he said, adding that at that point he knew his daughter was “beyond repair.”
On the day he found Emani dead, Moss testified, he wrapped her body in blankets and moved it to the computer room of the family’s apartment. The body stayed there for days while Moss said he continued his work routine, showing up at both of his jobs, then returning home and spending time with his dead daughter, grieving.
Initially, he said, he recommended calling 911. But Tiffany Moss, already on probation for a child cruelty charge for severely beating Emani with a belt, told her husband not to get authorities involved.
“She wanted to hide it,” Eman Moss testified.
“Why did you agree to that?” Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter asked him.
“I was trying to fix the problem I couldn’t fix,” he said. “I can’t explain it.”
Tiffany Moss recommended they bury Emani’s body, but Eman Moss said he didn’t want to do that. Instead, he went to a Home Depot and bought a galvanized trash can, trash bags, charcoal and lighter fluid.
Emani’s small body was already stiff from rigor mortis, so the couple struggled to compact it so it would fit into the trash can. When they used duct tape to compress the body, it made cracking sounds, Moss testified.
Eventually, late one night, Moss, his wife and their two surviving children drove to a secluded area off Satellite Boulevard. Emani’s body had been put in the back of the family’s Chevy Trailblazer, along with the trash can and the other items Moss had purchased.
After he parked his truck and put the trash can on the ground, Eman Moss said, he poured charcoal briquettes into the can, sprinkled lighter fluid inside and lit it on fire with hopes of cremating Emani’s body.
After five minutes, however, he put the fire out, realizing Emani’s body was not going to be reduced to ashes.
Moss dropped his family off at home and then went to work the next morning. Emani’s body was still inside the trash can in the back of his truck, he acknowledged. Finally, when heading home, Eman Moss called a friend and said he had to talk. They met at a QT and when Moss disclosed what had happened, his friend told him to call police.
Moss said he drove home and told his wife he was going to call 911. Upon hearing that, Tiffany Moss took the kids and left for her mother’s house.
According to testimony, police soon arrived and arrested Eman Moss after finding his daughter inside the trash can on the curb of the apartment complex.
While her husband testified, Tiffany Moss occasionally looked up at him without any noticeable expression. When Porter told Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson he was finished, the judge asked Tiffany Moss if she had questions for her husband.
As she has done for all of the prosecution’s witnesses, Moss said she had no questions to ask.
The state is expected to rest its case today on Friday.