A Texas jury convicted two women of kidnapping a child when he was just eight months old and hiding him for eight years, according to a Feb. 19 Associated Press report.
The East Texas jury reportedly deliberated for approximately two hours in a San Augustine court before finding defendants Krystle Tanner Gloria Walker guilty of kidnapping in the 2004 disappearance of eight-year-old Miguel Morin, who was only eight months old at the time of his abduction. Walker, who is Tanner’s mother, was also found guilty of injury to a child and Tanner was convicted of the lesser charge of reckless injury to a child.
After the Feb. 19 verdict, the same jury heard evidence in the trial's punishment phase before deciding on the defendants’ sentences. Walker faces up to life in prison, and Tanner, up to 20 years. Both women testified during the punishment phase, insisting they committed no wrongdoing because Morin’s mother gave him away.
According to the Associated Press, prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that Tanner and Walker neglected Miguel during the eight years they hid him from authorities, denying him appropriate medical care and keeping him out of school. Defense attorneys argued that there was no abduction because Morin’s mother sold him to the women and that the boy’s parents never showed any concern for their son, and even refused to cooperate with authorities.
Both Walker and Tanner asked jurors to sentence them to probation. “I didn't do nothing wrong,” Walker said, telling jurors that she had little contact with Morin. Tanner told jurors, however, that contrary to Walker’s testimony, Morin lived with Walker for extended periods of time.
Authorities said Tanner, who used to babysit Miguel, took the boy from his Houston apartment complex when he was a baby and that she and her mother kept him hidden in homes in Central and East Texas, renaming him Jaquan. San Augustine County District Attorney Kevin Dutton said in his closing argument that the defendants’ claims that Morin’s mother gave the boy to them was not substantiated by their actions. “If Ms. Walker and Ms. Tanner had a right to little Miguel, why wasn't he in school?” he asked. “Why didn't you get the rest of his immunizations? Why didn't you take him to the dentist? They knew they didn't have that right. They knew they couldn't put that baby out in the public eye.”
Morin remained missing until March 2012, when Tanner and Walker were arrested. Authorities began investigating Tanner in 2010 after her newborn son tested positive for marijuana, the Associated Press reproted.
San Augustine County Attorney Wesley Hoyt, the other prosecutor in the case, told jurors that Morin remained missing for years in part because of a flawed investigation by Houston police department, which closed the case in 2006.
But Rudy Velasquez, Walker's attorney, told jurors that Morin’s parents, Auboni Champion-Morin and Fernando Morin, failed to cooperate cooperate with Houston police after the boy was reported missing and never really showed any concern for their son. “This is not a kidnapping. What has happened is you have a young lady who gave her child away," Velasquez said. "Ms. Morin was willing to sell her child for $200.”
Last month, a Houston judge placed Miguel with Junita and Joseph Auguillard, who have also been taking care of Morin's four siblings for nearly 10 years under an agreement they have with the boy's parents. Morin was informed of the true identify of his parents and siblings, and he has been engaged in weekly joint therapy sessions with his parents.
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