Stepmom found guilty in boy's dehydration death

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by MARCUS MOORE & DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on January 18, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 19 at 9:49 AM

DALLAS - The stepmother of a 10-year-old boy who died of dehydration in Dallas was found guilty of reckless injury to a child and could face up to life in prison.

The prosecution was pushing for a conviction of knowingly causing injury to a child. The conviction on a lesser charge means the jury found that Tina Alberson didn't reasonably believe the punishment of withholding water from her stepson would lead to his death.

During the trial, Alberson admitted to denying Jonathan James water as a form of punishment. The stepmother told authorities she did not believe it would ultimately end in her stepson's death.

James was 10 when he died from dehydration after a weekend of punishment in 2011.

The grandmother of James, Ellen Shotwell, testified Friday about seeing her grandson unconscious in the hospital.

"I thought, 'He's dying and I can't help,'" she told jurors.

Even though he was unconscious, Shotwell said she had a moment to say goodbye.

"I just got up beside him and I held his hand and I touched his face," she said. "And I kissed him on his face and told him how much I loved him and that he was going to a beautiful place."

The grandmother said James was a friendly boy who loved the outdoors. She also said he was obedient and couldn't understand why he was always in trouble with Alberson.

Prosecutors say Alberson deprived James of water for a deadly length of time and that she knew her actions would cause him harm. On day three of the trial Friday, prosecutors urged jurors not to see Alberson as the victim.

"She was responsible for making sure he had water ... and she denied it," argued prosecutor Carmen White.

Meanwhile, Alberson's defense team argued that she wouldn't have knowingly harmed her stepson, adding that no one knew James was sick until it was too late.

"There was no indication that he was suffering, not until right at the last minute," said defense attorney Bill Fay.

He told jurors not to let their emotions cloud their judgment.

Next week, the jury will determine Alberson's sentence, which could range from five years to life. They will be allowed to consider she previously served a two-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon.

E-mail mmoore@wfaa.com
 

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