A 44-year-old stepmom got 85 years in prison Tuesday. The sentence, handed to the Dallas woman by a Texas jury, is the equivalent of a death sentence. Tina Marie Alberson was convicted Friday of a lesser crime in the dehydration death of her 10-year-old stepson.
According to a Jan. 22 report from USA Today, Alberson did not show any sign of emotion when the sentence was read in open court.
The woman and her husband, Michael Ray Alberson were charged in the death of the young boy. Prosecutors argued that they withheld water from the child as punishment during "time-out" for bed-wetting.
Additionally, sources say the 10-year-old boy was made to stand in the harsh sun without water. In fact, the day he collapsed, he was found with peanut butter stuck in his throat.
Reportedly, when he begged for water to wash it down, he was denied.
Initially, authorities believed the child died from a heat-related death, due to soaring temperatures. However, both were criminally charged and fingered for the boy's death when the medical examiner's report came back.
While the stepmother of Jonathan James got 85 years behind bars, she faced life in prison due to a previous felony conviction. However, some experts believe the current punishment may allow for early release at some point in her sentence.
Shortly after the sentence was handed down, the dead boy's grandmother, Sue Shotwell, read this statement in open court:
"There was a time he came home with a red mark around his neck and we asked him what happened and he said, 'Tina.'
"We trusted you with our baby. If I could speak for Jonathan right now, I would know — you would know — that he still loves you."
With the death of a child, it's understandable how emotionally-charged matters can be, especially when it happened because of the actions of a parent or relative.
Perhaps, the most compelling testimony in the trial came from the dead boy's fraternal brother, now 12. The stepmom got 85 years in prison, likely due in part to what he witnessed.
Joseph Alberson testified that he observed times when his brother was denied water and lied about having to use the restroom. There, he would try drinking from the faucet before his stepmom discovered him.
The young boy also said he did not inform anyone of the disturbing incidents because he was afraid of what may happen to him if he told others.
So, the stepmom gets 85 yeas in jail. Was the penalty too harsh, lenient or just right?