Dallas stepmom gets 85 years in dehydration death

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DALLAS (AP) — 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 had faced up to life in prison because of a previous felony conviction.

Police thought Jonathan’s death was heat-related until the medical examiner’s report.

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, the twins’ maternal grandmother, Sue 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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