Parents found guilty in child abuse death (Sept. 14, 2012)
The parents who were found guilty this month of abusing and murdering their 5-month-old son will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
On Tuesday Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation sentenced Matea and Grant Stewart, who are both in their early 20's, to life without parole for the 2010 murder of their son James.
"Instinct is to take care of your child," Judge Nation told the court during the sentencing hearing. "I don't know what happened in this case, but one thing was to get rid of this child when they knew another one was on the way." Matea Stewart was pregnant with the couple's daughter when she was arrested for her son's murder.
Only the prosecutors and the defense attorneys for the couple, who were tried together, spoke during the brief hearing before Judge Nation announced he would be punishing the Stewarts to the fullest extent of the law. Grant Stewart was found guilty on all nine counts he faced, including a malice murder charge for causing the blunt force trauma that lead to the baby's death, and Matea Stewart was found guilty on four counts, including one count of felony murder.
"I hope you never get out and have a chance to put your hands on another baby," Judge Nation told each parent as he was imposing the maximum sentence both could have received. He said he felt an explicit photograph presented during the trial showing the couple smiling "was two killers thinking they had gotten away with murder because it was taken three days after the baby died."
James Stewart died July 29, 2010 and an autopsy revealed the cause of death was a 6-inch skull fracture that caused his brain to swell. The baby also had 25 bone fractures in various stages of healing on his arms, legs and ribs when he died. Grant Stewart had been working out of town for several days before he returned to the family home at 362 Morris on the morning of July 28, 2010. He told authorities he had given James a shower and tried to feed him but put him in his crib around 1:30pm because he wouldn't eat and had become fussy. Grant Stewart called 911 at 2:11pm to report the baby was in respiratory distress after finding him with a towel wrapped around his face in the crib.
IN BRIEF: Both parents were sentenced to life without parole by Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation today for the 2010 death of their 5-month-old infant. A jury found both Grant Stewart and Matea Stewart guilty of murder. Neither defendant spoke at the sentencing and no testimony from family or friends was given. Judge Nation said to the defendants, "I hope you never get out and have a chance to put your hands on another baby."
Grant Stewart was found guilty on all charges, including malice murder and cruelty to children. The child’s mother Matea Stewart, was acquitted of malice murder but was found guilty of felony murder and deprivation of a child for her part in the July 28, 2010 incident that led to baby James Stewart’s death. Both parents were also found guilty of cruelty to children in the first degree and contributing to the deprivation of a child for the events that happened before the baby died.
James Stewart died July 29, 2010 and an autopsy revealed the cause of death was a 6-inch skull fracture that caused his brain to swell. The baby also had 25 bone fractures in various stages of healing on his arms, legs and ribs when he died. Both defendants, who were 21 when their baby died, were charged with malice murder, three counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, cruelty to children, deprivation of a minor and contributing to the deprivation of a minor after the death was ruled a homicide. Grant Stewart was found guilty on all charges, the most important charge being malice murder, which means "intent to kill." The guilty verdicts imply both parents knew about the abuse but neither acted to prevent it or seek medical attention.
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