Stepmother Guilty in Case of Boy Deprived of Water

Stepmother charged with felony injury to a child

A Dallas jury will return Tuesday to continue deliberations in the sentencing phase of the trial of Tina Marie Alberson for the dehydration death of her stepson.

Prosecutors want a sentence of life in prison, the defense wants the jury to sentence her to 5 years behind bars.

The jury found Alberson guilty Friday of second degree felony injury to a child for depriving her stepson of water for several days.

Police said Alberson and the boy's father, Michael James, forced the 10-year-old boy, Johnathan James, to go without water for five days as a form of punishment.

The boy died July 25, 2011, after he was found unresponsive in his home in the 5500 block of Elmleaf Court.  Due to the hot summer and string of 100 degree days, police said they originally thought the boy's death was heat-related until the medical examiner ruled otherwise.

The boy's parents were then charged with his death.

Prosecutor Carmen White, in closing arguments Friday, described the case as cruel and unusual punishment.

"She had the ability to deny him what he wanted, which was the TV, but what she chose to do is deny him what he needed, his water. We can't deny people the basic necessities of life," White said Friday.

Alberson was charged with first degree felony injury to a child, for which she could have faced life in prison.  The jury convicted her on a lesser charge, second degree felony injury to a child which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Alberson may still be sentenced up to life in prison due to a previous conviction. 

The case against the boy's father is scheduled to begin next month.

NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff, Mark Schnyder and Lita Beck contributed to this report.

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