updated 4/29/2004 5:22:17 PM ET 2004-04-29T21:22:17

A man accused of stabbing and beating a 14-year-old girl who was pregnant with his child, then burying her alive, was found innocent of murder charges Thursday.

The jury deliberated for more than two days before acquitting Kyle Bryant of two first-degree murder charges — one each for the girl and her unborn child. Bryant, 22, faces no other charges and will be allowed to go free.

Prosecutor David Meier had argued Bryant, who was 17 at the time, stabbed Chauntae Jones in September 1999 so he could avoid a statutory rape charge. He said Bryant and a friend buried her at the abandoned Boston State Hospital, a mental hospital.

Bryant acknowledged being present when the girl died but claimed the friend, Lord Hampton, was solely responsible for the slaying. Hampton, 25, faces a separate trial on murder charges.

“We always respect the jury’s decision,” said David Procopio, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley. “However, we felt that the evidence was sufficient to warrant a different outcome. Our thoughts are with the Jones family.”

After the verdict was announced, the victim’s wailing mother, Pamela Jones, had to be restrained by court officers after she left the courtroom, then tried to re-enter.

Jones disappeared just a short time after she started the eighth grade; she was eight months pregnant. Authorities said she apparently did not die from the stab wounds, but from being buried alive; dirt was found in her mouth, nose and throat.

Defense lawyer John Salsberg said Bryant never hurt Jones and was not concerned about having fathered a child with an underage girl. The defense described Hampton as a homeless drug and alcohol abuser.

“I’m relieved, of course, for my client, Mr. Bryant, and his family,” Salsberg said after the verdict, adding that he feels “very badly” for Jones and her family.

During the trial, the jury heard a tape of one of Bryant’s statements to police. In it, he said he watched “like a dummy” but did nothing while the girl pleaded with him to intervene as Hampton stabbed her and bludgeoned her with a rock, then buried her.

Prosecutors said Bryant eventually showed police where the body was buried.

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