SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – A South Bend man convicted of beating three of his sons, one of them fatally, was sentenced Thursday to 140 years in prison by a judge who said she wished the sentence could be longer.
Terry Sturgis, 35, was convicted by a jury in May in the Nov. 4 death of his son, Tramelle, and the beatings of two other sons, ages 14 and 9 at the time. St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jane Woodward-Miller sentenced Terry Sturgis on 14 counts, including murder, two counts of criminal confinement, nine counts of battery and two counts of neglect of a dependent.
Prosecutors alleged Sturgis habitually beat and burned his three sons for years. Investigators said the abuse happened in the basement of a home Sturgis shared with his mother and other family members.
The older boy testified Thursday that he “hated summertime” because he was more vulnerable to beatings when home from school.
“The abuse was real. It made me feel vulnerable, because I felt I couldn’t do anything about the suffocating, sitting on me, choking me. It made me feel the most helpless, because he could have ended my life,” he said.
Woodward-Miller told Sturgis she would give him a longer sentence if she could under the law.
“They weren’t just your children to do with as you wanted to. They’re really all of our children. They say that children are the most precious natural resource, and it’s true. … When you killed Tramelle, you killed all the potential that that sweet, smart, smiling boy had, and whatever he was going to be _ be it a doctor, a professor, a musician _ he will never be. And you took from all of us what he might have contributed to this community and to our society,” the judge said
“And when you battered and burned (the other sons), you didn’t just scar them physically. You scarred them emotionally, and they’re gonna carry that with them,” she said.
WSBT-TV reported that Tramelle’s mother, aunt and maternal grandmother were in the courtroom Thursday wearing T-shirts that said “in loving memory of Tramelle.”
The 14-year-old testified during the trial that his father would regularly punch and burn him and his brothers for misbehavior. He said that twice in the months leading up to Tramelle’s death, a worker from the Indiana Department of Child Services visited the home and spoke with the children. Both times, the father ordered the children to lie about their injuries, the 14-year-old said.
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