ST. GEORGE — A man about to go on trial for the killing of a 3-year-old girl in January abruptly pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Donald Joseph Mauldin, 26, was charged with homicide by child abuse after Alyssa Carver suffered a fractured skull on New Year's Day. She died four weeks later.

At the time, Mauldin was the live-in boyfriend of Alyssa's mother, Brandy Carver of Summerville. Mauldin either hit the girl or caused her to hit her head, police said at the outset of the case.

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe credited Summerville police and Trident Medical Center staff for providing evidence that showed Mauldin was responsible for the girl's injuries.

Mauldin initially told officers he heard a loud thump and found the girl lying motionless on the floor, a police report stated. He told police Alyssa fell and hit her head because a cast had just been removed for a broken thigh bone and she was unsteady on her feet.

A Trident Medical Center emergency room nurse, however, told police the damage to Alyssa's brain was inconsistent with a fall.

"Mr. Mauldin claimed that Alyssa's injuries were accidental, but there is nothing accidental about child abuse," Pascoe said. "He will have a long time to think about his actions on that horrible morning."

Mauldin was sentenced by Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein.

Carver, 23, was at work Jan. 1 when Alyssa was injured, according to initial reports. After learning of the injury, police contend Carver delayed getting medical treatment for the toddler.

She is charged with two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child and one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

One of the allegations is that she ingested marijuana while pregnant with another child, Pascoe said.

Shortly after the girl died, Brandy Carver went into labor and delivered a small, but healthy, baby girl she named Lucy. Mauldin was the newborn's father. The woman's two surviving children are in the custody of the state Department of Social Services, Pascoe said.

Social Services caseworkers investigate about 18,000 reports of child abuse and neglect each year. About 6,000 of those have merit, according to agency statistics.

Contact Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@ postandcourier.com.