Tina Marie Alberson withheld water from her stepson, Jonathan James, for five consecutive days during record-high temperatures. Jonathan suffered multiple organ failure and blood poisoning and died on July 25, 2011 with severe dehydration. Alberson would later state she was punishing the child for wetting his bed.
On Tuesday, a judge sentenced the stepmom to 85 years. The 44-year-old had faced life imprisonment because of a previous felony conviction.
During the trial, Jonathan’s twin brother Joseph, now aged 12, had spoken of how Jonathan had repeatedly asked his stepmother for water, only to be refused. The sibling described how the parched boy would pretend to use the bathroom to sneak a drink from the faucet.
The court heard how stepmom Alberson, along with her partner Michael Ray James, made Jonathan stand on a drawn ‘X’ on the kitchen floor in full exposure of the 100-degree sunlight without air conditioning.
During testimony, the court viewed footage (see image below) of the room in Alberson’s home where Jonathan was forced to stand during “time-out.” A large jug of water was placed just out of the boy’s reach. Alberson and James also forced the child to eat particularly viscous foods without a beverage.
When the punishment caused Jonathan to collapse from cardiac arrest, emergency doctors at the Methodist Charlton Medical Center were unable to resuscitate him. An autopsy later revealed no trace of fluid in his bladder.
The boy’s father, who is also charged in the case, will go to trial next month.