Tyler Witham-Jordan, who is accused of killing his girlfriend’s daughter on Christmas morning in 2022, appears in Lincoln County Superior Court on Thursday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Edgecomb man accused of killing his girlfriend’s daughter on Christmas morning in 2022 pleaded not guilty Thursday to one count of depraved indifference murder.

Tyler Witham-Jordan, 29, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles, spoke only once at his brief arraignment at Lincoln County Superior Court – to deny responsibility for the death of 3-year-old Makinzlee Handrahan.

Witham-Jordan was living with his girlfriend, Faith Lewis, and four children in their Edgecomb home when the couple called 911 and reported that Makinzlee was unresponsive early on Dec. 25, 2022. When first responders arrived, they found the child stiff, cold to the touch and so bruised that one EMT said she looked like a “Dalmatian,” a police affidavit states.

Within days, the medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide. But even though Lewis and Witham-Jordan were the only adults home on the night Makinzlee died, the state police investigation into the slaying dragged on for months, frustrating both the child’s family and Witham-Jordan, who said through his lawyer last spring that he wasn’t sure he was even considered a suspect.

Police arrested Witham-Jordan in October and charged him with depraved indifference murder. An affidavit filed in court painted a grisly picture of the alleged beating and neglect that led to the child’s death.

Even though the document – which cited a wide range of evidence, including text message records, cellphone app data and DNA testing results – laid out a detailed timeline of Witham-Jordan’s alleged trip to purchase drugs on Christmas Eve morning, it did not clearly explain when he could have killed Makinzlee – or why no one in the crowded house had heard the beating that led to her death.


“The allegations in this 33-page affidavit are virtually all conjecture,” states one of several motions the defense team has filed since Witham-Jordan’s arrest. “Tyler has very little notice as to what the state’s theory of his guilt is. … It is interesting to note that the arrest affidavit, multiple times, calls into question the veracity of statements made by the only other adult in the house – an adult who is NOT arrested.”

The Department of Health and Human Services had previously investigated tips of possible abuse inside the home beginning in October 2020, according to the affidavit. The document says that Witham-Jordan was a suspect in the investigation and it seems to suggest that Lewis covered for him by telling investigators that he was rarely alone with the kids, even though that wasn’t true.

At a bail hearing in October, his defense attorney, James Howaniec, again criticized the quality of evidence in the affidavit. He said the DHHS investigation had actually centered on Lewis and he complained that the misleading language had led the Press Herald and other news outlets to unfairly paint his client as an abuser.

“The police have arrested the wrong person in this case,” Howaniec said at the hearing, according to a transcript. “He did not commit this crime.”

Howaniec and Makinzlee’s father, Henry Handrahan, have said DHHS closed its 2020 investigation after two different doctors examined Makinzlee and determined that the scratch and bruises that had drawn officials’ attention had been accidental and did not result from abuse.

A judge set Witham-Jordan’s bail at $250,000 cash in October and barred him from using or possessing illegal drugs or having contact with any minor under the age of 16. As of Thursday, he had not posted bail and remained at Two Bridges Regional Jail. Howaniec has said that his client will not be able to raise the necessary funds.

The attorney said after a closed-door meeting with the judge Thursday that the case appeared to be on track for a December trial. Depraved indifference murder carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum punishment of life in prison.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.