Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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January 22, 2013

Dallas stepmom gets 85 years in dehydration death

DALLAS — A Dallas woman was sentenced Tuesday to 85 years in prison in the dehydration death of her 10-year-old stepson whom she denied of water for days during record-high temperatures.

Tina Marie Alberson, 44, was convicted Friday of injury to a child, a second-degree felony, in the July 2011 death of Jonathan James.

Alberson, who had faced up to life in prison because of a previous felony conviction, did not appear to react when her sentenced was read.

The boy's maternal grandmother, Sue Shotwell, made a statement in court after the sentence was handed down.

"We trusted you with our baby," she said.

She said she's forgiven Alberson but many members of the family, including the mother of the child, have not. She said they remember Jonathan as an active little boy who wanted to wake up before dawn so he could ride his bike.

Police had thought Jonathan's death was heat-related until the medical examiner's report indicated otherwise.

Alberson, who testified in her own defense, told jurors that she limited Jonathan's water intake a few times as punishment for misbehaving, and that she saw him drinking water when he wasn't in "time-out." She said she saw no sign that he was in medical distress.

The boy's twin brother, now 12, testified that Jonathan repeatedly asked for water and pretended to use the bathroom so that he could sneak a drink from the faucet before their stepmother ordered him out. Joseph James told jurors he was concerned for his brother's health but was too afraid of Alberson to do anything.

During the sentencing phase, Shotwell testified that the boys didn't want to go to Alberson's house and that Jonathan couldn't understand why he was always in trouble with his stepmother.

Alberson was previously convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after hitting someone with her van in 1998.

The boy's father, Michael Ray James, 43, is set for trial next month.

 

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