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FREEHOLD, N.J. — A father accused of hoisting his 2½-year-old daughter over a bridge as she was strapped in her car seat was found guilty of murder Thursday.

A Monmouth County jury also convicted Arthur Morgan III of child endangerment and interfering with his daughter's custody. The 29-year-old, who fled to California after refusing to return the child to her mother when an afternoon visit was officially over, faces life without the possibility of parole. New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007.

He will be held without bail until his sentencing May 28, Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. said.

"He couldn't find a place to live for his daughter, but he can have 10 different pairs of the same jeans," Assistant Prosecutor Marc LeMieux told the jury Tuesday. "He cares about himself."

Morgan was homeless at the time of the crime and had been fired from his job six days earlier.

Jurors took about five hours over two days to agree that Morgan, who had been living in Eatontown, N.J., threw his 2½-year-old daughter, Tierra Morgan-Glover, off a bridge at about 6 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2011, in Shark River Park in Wall Township, N.J. The girl, strapped in her pink flowered car seat that was weighted down with a car jack, was dropped about 17 feet into the water, prosecutors said.

Teenagers found Tierra's body, clad in her favorite bright pink pea coat, the next day.

Morgan's lawyers had not disputed that their client was responsible for Tierra's death. But they contended that Morgan's judgment was clouded by his homelessness, job loss and lack of sleep when he placed his daughter in the stream for God to decide her fate.

But statements that Morgan made to San Diego police after his capture Nov. 29, 2011, were videotaped, played to the jury during the trial and replayed Wednesday during deliberations.

He told detectives then that he intended the car jack he tethered to Tierra's car seat to serve as an anchor, "like a ball and chain," to keep her in the stream. He also told the investigators he slept well after his capture because he was at peace with Tierra's death.

Prosecutors said Morgan killed Tierra as revenge against the child's mother, Imani Benton of Lakehurst, N.J., with whom he had a strained relationship.

As sheriff's officers handcuffed Morgan to lead him out of the courtroom, he smiled and winked at LeMieux. Morgan has been on trial since March 12.

Timeline of events

• 2 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2011: Imani Benton meets her daughter's father, Arthur Morgan III, in a Dollar General Store parking lot in Lakehurst, N.J., so he can take her to an afternoon movie.

• Afternoon: Instead of taking the girl, Tierra Morgan-Glover, to see dancing penguins in Happy Feet Two, they drive around for hours in his white 1995 Cadillac Deville.

• 6 p.m.: Morgan throws Tierra off a bridge in Shark River Park in Wall Township, N.J., where she dies.

• 6:24 p.m.: Morgan enters a liquor store with his friend, Jamar Bass, to buy a bottle of rum. Then Jamar Bass, drops Morgan off at the Asbury Park, N.J., train station.

• 6:30 p.m.: Morgan calls Benton to say he's running late and will drop Tierra off after he gets gas.

• About 7 p.m.: Morgan is seen on a platform at the Asbury Park train station.

• 8 p.m.: Morgan gets off a New Jersey Transit train at Long Branch, transfers to Newark train.

• 9 p.m.: Morgan's visitation order with Tierra officially ends.

• 9:16 p.m.: Morgan arrives in Newark, makes a purchase at another liquor store.

• 10 p.m.: Morgan ends four hours of text messages, 59 total, with Benton reassuring her that Tierra was "resting."

• 10:15 p.m.: Morgan talks his way onto a Greyhound bus bound for Richmond, Va., without buying a ticket.

• 11 p.m.: Benton files a missing person's report with Lakehurst, N.J., police on her daughter.

• 3 a.m. Nov. 22: Police find Morgan's Cadillac outside Bass's apartment in Ocean Township, N.J., with no sign of Tierra.

• 4:20 a.m.: Morgan arrives in Richmond and boards a second Greyhound bus to Memphis about 40 minutes later.

• 2:30 p.m.: Teens discover Tierra's body in creek at Shark River Park.

• 2 a.m. Nov. 23: Morgan transfers to another bus in Memphis whose destination is San Diego. Morgan had lived in California as a child.

• 2 p.m.: Morgan gets off the San Diego-bound bus in Elk City, Okla., but eventually boards another one to San Deigo.

• Nov. 25: 100 people, including Benton, gather for a vigil for Tierra at Shark River Park.

• Nov. 28: Tierra's funeral is held in Asbury Park.

• 4:30 p.m. PT Nov. 29: Morgan is arrested at a house in San Diego after a nationwide manhunt.

• Dec. 1: San Diego judge orders Morgan to be returned to New Jersey to face a charge of murdering his daughter. He was held until his trial starting March 12, 2014, on a $10 million cash-only bail.

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