LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury has sentenced a Lufkin woman to a total of 59 years on seven different charges of child abuse.
Kathy Taylor, 38, received three 16-year sentences and one five-year sentence for injury to a child charges and three different two-year sentences for unlawful restraint.
The sentences will run concurrently.
"From here on out, they will be loved and they will be well appreciated and they will finally have a life with no fear," said the victims' father Rickie Lee Taylor. "It brought me to tears to know what they've been through because I've been in the dark about all of it, but I'm thrilled that we can move forward from this now."
The jury's decision came after about two-and-a-half hours of deliberations Thursday afternoon.
"We were relieved , we thought the severity of the child abuse deserved a prison sentence and we felt like the jury strongly considered all the facets and we were pleased with the results," said Alston.
"I'm very disappointed in the conviction, because I will never be able to understand how you can convict someone on absolutely no evidence," said Taylor's attorney Kamisha Mickey. "I can respect the jury's opinion. I'm shocked that she got 16 years. I think that's excessive for someone who has never committed any crimes."
During punishment testimony, an attorney told jurors Thursday that he respects their decision to convict his client of seven counts of child abuse, but she is a good person.
Taylor was found guilty of binding her children with duct tape, beating them with an extension cord, and burning them with a curling iron.
After nearly three hours of deliberation Wednesday night, an Angelina County jury returned a guilty verdict on four counts of injury to a child, one of them was downgraded to a lesser degree, and three counts of unlawful restraint.
Taylor's attorney, Sylvester Williams, began addressing jurors in the sentencing phase of the trial.
"Situations like this, there is just never a winner," said Williams.
He said his client is a Christian.
"Ms. Taylor, she may not be a perfect mom," said Williams.
The state rested after offering all the previous testimony that had been presented in the punishment phase of the trial.
The defense called Taylor's daughter to the stand.
"Are you fearful of your mom," asked Williams.
"Yes," answered the teenager.
"Do you think your mom can be helped," asked Williams.
"Yes," she replied after a long pause.
The girl said she doesn't know if she would ever want to see her mom again, but she does love her.
Angelina County Assistant District Attorney, Julie Alston, asked the girl if she will live with the abuse for a long time. The daughter said yes and she is still fearful of her mother.
"Do you know if your mom is a Christian woman," asked Williams. "I don't know," she said shrugging.
Alston pointed out her mother has never sought help, but the defense pointed out she had gone to treatment at a local mental health facility.
The defense called Taylor's aunt, Lajuanda Perkins, to the witness stand.
"I can tell you that my niece loves her children," she said.
Perkins went on to say Taylor worked several jobs to take care of her kids.
"She would help anybody," said Perkins.
"I can tell you this, my niece is not perfect," Perkins told District Attorney Clyde Herrington.
She admitted it was unhealthy for her niece to be as strict as she was and to not let her children go to school.
Herrington asked the woman if she realized the jury had convicted Taylor of child abuse.
"I still don't believe it and can't nobody make me believe it," said Perkins.
Williams pointed out Taylor may not have been mother of the year, but she was a person of good character.
The defense called Taylor's son back to the stand Thursday morning.
He told the jurors he is not afraid of his mother and no one else should be fearful either.
"We all three came from her and we at least need to treat her with respect," he said.
The young man went on to say all he wanted was to grown up like other teenagers and not be caught in the middle.
He told jurors life was hard growing up because they didn't have much money.
"I was thankful for what I had," he said.
The witness testified he was very hurt when his family broke up and did what he could to try to keep his family together. He said he originally started trying to do it the dirty way by lying about the abuse.
He said he wanted to be like other students.
He began crying and said his mom was there for him and his father abandoned them. The witness said he would live with his mom if he could, but if not then he would live with other family members, but not his father.
Gayla Walker was called to the stand. Walker is Taylor's pastor.
"I've never seen Kathy do or say anything out of line," said Walker. "I've always known her to be a kind person."
Walker said she doesn't see any reason for people in the community to fear Taylor.
Herrington noted Walker got to know Taylor personally about a year ago when she began coming to church.
At 12 p.m. both the state and the defense rested and closed.
In closing statements, Assistant District Attorney Julie Alston told jurors she doesn't want them to forget the evidence they heard in the first three days of the trial.
She told jurors she wants them to remember the vivid images of the abuse that brought them to their seven guilty verdicts.
Alston broke down the jurors sentencing options by explaining they could return a sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison for each of the three injury to a child convictions. The jurors can select a range of punishment of two to 10 years for one of the injury to a child convictions, since it was a third degree felony. They can select range of punishment between 180 days to two years in state jail for each of the three unlawful restraint convictions. Taylor also faces thousands of dollars in fines. However, the jury can sentence her to probation for all seven convictions if they wish.
"Just because your eligible doesn't always mean that you're deserving or entitled to probation," said Alston.
The state explained any sentence more than 10 years means Taylor is not eligible for probation.
"When you consider probation, I want you to think about that probation is really what most of us have to do," said Alston.
The prosecuting attorney said she wanted the jurors to think about what Taylor has done and that she still may have a daycare license.
"Whatever you decide to do, I want you to think about the future of these kids," said Alston.
She said she wants them to think about Taylor and how little emotion she has shown as her children have taken the stand and talked about the horrible abuse.
"The acts of Kathy Taylor, while she may not be a monster, her acts against these kids were monstrous," said Alston.
She told jurors it breaks her heart how torn Taylor's son is between his parents.
Williams then addressed the jury telling them there is a reason probation is an option. He also told jurors Taylor's son won't be able to spread his wings and fly as Alston said because he would be visiting his mother every day in jail.
"Yes those children may have scars from what allegedly happened, but they don't have to deal with Ms. Taylor ever again if they don't want to," said Williams.
Taylor's attorney said his client may not appear remorseful, but she is hurting. He said she is on several strong medications.
Williams pleaded with jurors to give Taylor a probated sentence and not sentence her to jail.
"She may not be the best mom, but I can tell you she did try," said Williams.
Alston stood up to address the jury for a final time.
She told jurors of family members who had begged Taylor to get help, but she didn't. The state also said Taylor only began going to church a year ago when this case began.
"She's manipulated these children for years," said Alston.
The prosecution said Taylor is a threat to children and it's a scary thought that parents would allow Taylor to keep their kids.
"When she's here asking for leniency, I want you to think about the leniency she showed her children, which is none," said Alston. "The scars that those kids suffered on their body is nothing compared to the scars they have in their heart, the scars they will have in the souls that they will have the rest of their lives for being treated this way by their mother."
The jury began deliberating at 12:50 p.m.
Taylor's victims had the opportunity to give a victim impact statement.
"I just wanted to tell you how much you hurt me," said Taylor's daughter. "You made me feel like I didn't have a mother."
"You don't have to worry about me anymore," Taylor replied.
"I want you to listen to what I've been through," said the little girl crying.
Moving on isn't always easy.
Victim advocates said often abused children are taunted when they return to school.
"Show them love, show them support and praise them for the courage it's taken for them to come out and report this abuse," said Harold's House Victim Advocate Melisa Gallman.
The trial is over, their abuser behind bars, but for the children there are still scars that will take time to fade.