DETROIT – The judge who oversaw the Bianca Jones murder trial spoke about the case for the first time and supported the jury's guilty verdict.
Bianca's father, D'Andre Lane, was convicted of killing the 2-year-old in 2011, and is serving a life sentence behind bars. But three witnesses have come forward, saying they saw Bianca alive after the time police said she had been killed.
Bianca's mother is asking the community to help her search for her daughter.
Judge Vonda Evans presided over Lane's murder trial, and she spoke publicly with the Defenders about the case for the first time.
Evans is known for being very outspoken, and she's no different in this case. She said it's hard to get a murder conviction without a body, but the jury came back with a guilty verdict for Lane, and she believes the jury members got it right.
"Nobody ever saw baby Bianca killed," Evans said. "Nobody ever recovered the body. This is what we call circumstantial evidence -- evidence in which you can infer the existence of something else."
In her first public interview on the disappearance of Bianca, Evans said she was surprised there was a guilty verdict.
"I was very surprised," Evans said. "This is probably the only case that I've had as a judge, or as a prosecutor, which is in excess of 26 years, where there was a conviction where I knew of or where I was involved in without a body."
Police said Lane killed his daughter by beating her with a stick for wetting the bed.
"Everyone in the house hears this horrific screaming, this crying after a beating," Evans said. "He then is in the front room with his nephew. He goes to check on baby Bianca. He brings baby Bianca back in the living room where the nephew is.
"He remembered that baby Bianca was alive, and I said, 'How did he know?' He said, 'Her eyes were wide open. She kept looking and she was stinking.' He starts trying to stand her up, almost using her as a prop, like she was alive," Evans said.
Lane said on the morning of Dec. 2, 2011, he was carjacked, and Bianca was taken along with the car. There wasn't much evidence, and there were no eyewitnesses.
The key to the conviction was a cadaver dog brought in by police. The dog sniffed the crime scene and barked, indicating the presence of a dead person.
"Those dogs that were used to find baby Bianca were very instrumental," Evans said. "They were taken to a house on Montgomery (Avenue). Of 10 rooms in the house, they went straight to the bedroom.
"The car was held in an impound area. There were 35 cars. They went straight to that car -- back seat. As well as the car seat was hidden at that location. The dogs went straight to where the car seat was hidden. These cadaver dogs were very, very useful. This is textbook."
Evans' job is to remain impartial. Looking back, she said she believes the jury got it right.
"Obviously, this was an emotional case," Evans said. "There wasn't a lot to work with. In my mind, I was concerned that despite the evidence, there is no body. No physical body. Does this jury have the training -- and really, the courage -- to do the right thing? Well, they did, and D'Andre Lane was convicted of first-degree murder."
Bianca's mother, Banika Jones, still believes her daughter is alive. She passes out an age progression photo of what Bianca would look like at age 8. She hopes the community will continue to look for her. The judge feels terrible for the mother.
"There was no doubt in my mind she loved her child, but she loved D'Andre, and she wanted to believe what he said," Evans said. "I wish I was wrong. I wish, someday, they find someone who met the description of baby Bianca and she is alive. I would love to be wrong. I don't think that is going to happen in this particular matter."
Evans said she learns something from every trial, and what sticks with her about the Bianca case is the way Detroit came together to find justice.
"Baby Bianca symbolized, to me, a community coming together," Evans said. "An urban community coming together. It didn't matter that she was a little black girl. What mattered was a child was dead and the community was concerned."
Lane has no chance of getting out of prison unless Bianca is found. Jones joined Local 4 on Friday and said she will continue to search for her daughter.
ORIGINAL REPORT: Bianca's mother pleads for public to keep searching for daughter