SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - Following emotionally charged closing arguments by the prosecuting and defense attorneys Tuesday, a San Augustine jury found a mother-daughter duo guilty of kidnapping a baby boy from Houston eight years ago and keeping him until they were arrested in August 2011.
Then, a few hours later, the mother, Gloria Walker, was sentenced to a 30-year prison term for injury to a child and an 8-year prison term for kidnapping. Krystle Tanner, the daughter, was sentenced to eight years for injury to a child and eight years for kidnapping. Both Walker and Tanner's prison terms will be concurrent, meaning they will each serve both sentences at the same time.
According to authorities, Krystle Tanner and her mother, Gloria Walker, have been on the run from law enforcement since they kidnapped the child, Miguel Morin, while babysitting him overnight. For eight years, Tanner allegedly hid Miguel Morin in homes all over Central and East Texas calling him by the name "Jaquan" and allowing him to believe he was younger than he actually was. They also kept him from going to school.
Tanner was found guilty of reckless injury to a child and kidnapping and faces up to a 20-year prison sentence. Walker was found guilty of a higher charge of injury to a child and kidnapping and faces up to a life sentence.
"Justice has not been done here today," Walker said. "Now, I've been cooperative from Day One. You can look at all the reports. My name is Angela Gloria Walker. My daughter is Krystle Rosheann Tanner. We have not done anything wrong. We have never been in trouble with the law."
San Augustine County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Tanner in August 2011 following reports of negligent supervision of children and abuse after Child Protective Services followed a claim that Tanner's husband, Timothy James Taylor, was allowing his newborn son to smoke marijuana. This is when CPS discovered a bi-racial boy living with the family.
During the investigation, one of the SACSO deputies realized one of Tanner's children was the missing child Miguel
In addition to the kidnapping charges against the two women, Walker was also found guilty of injury to a child, and Tanner was found guilty of a lesser charge of reckless injury to a child.
County Attorney Wesley Hoyt, who is co-representing the prosecution in this trial, told jurors there is no evidence to prove that Miguel Morin ever received proper medical care. He said there is no evidence Miguel received anything except a "false, fictitious name." Hoyt repeated he felt the Houston Police Department failed Miguel.
"He's going to be nine years old in a few days and he is in second grade," Hoyt said. "If it was up to these folks, this child would still be in Never, Never Land. I understand HPD is deeply embarrassed because the San Augustine Sheriff's Department could do in three days what they couldn't do over eight years. HPD quit on Miguel."
Hoyt said HPD lost Miguel's file not once, but twice.
"This was just a perfect storm for what happened," Hoyt said, "Just because a kidnapping has no defense. On this child's first birthday he was in captivity. His sixth, seventh, eighth; on his eighth birthday he was still in captivity."
Hoyt says Tanner and Walker could've nurtured and cared for Miguel, but they didn't. He says if Chief Deputy Gary Cunningham from the San Augustine Sheriff's Department and Child Protective Services hadn't used the resources and manpower to find Miguel, he would still be living in captivity.
Defense attorney Rudy Velasquez, Gloria Walker's attorney, argued, "This is not your typical case by far." Velasquez handed out several pages of exhibits from the case file to the jurors explaining he did not want to talk to them like a lawyer without allowing them a chance to understand the dynamics of the case.
Velasquez returned back to earlier testimony talking about HPD officer Sgt. Michael K. Peters who said he felt Miguel's father, Fernando Morin, had not reacted in a way a worried father would act when he found out his newborn son was gone. Velasquez continued to focus on evidence and statements from the first week of the trial and the HPD report stating Tanner had been taking care of Miguel for several months and that his mother, Auboni Morin, had given her baby to Miguel.
He continued by recounting the discrepancies in the date that Miguel was reported missing saying he has several statements saying Auboni had been trying to get Miguel since November 10, 2004, not November 16, 2004, which Auboni claimed on the stand is the date she reported her son was missing. Velasquez said in the HPD report, Auboni says the electricity in her apartment was turned off in August of 2004 and had been allowing Tanner to take care of Miguel until Auboni could pay her electricity bill.
Velasquez asked the jurors to pay close attention to a report from an HPD officer addressed as Coleman who took the case after Sgt. Peters. He says Auboni made a call to Coleman that she was going on spring break.
"What are we doing here? Are we playing hide and seek?" Velasquez said. "These people are going on vacation, and they are saying their child was potentially kidnapped."
Velasquez says Auboni has been lying from day one and that she was uncooperative with officers and her earlier testimony that she had kept in touch with HPD officers throughout their investigation is false.
He went back to HPD Officer Jennifer Kauffelt's testimony when she talked about interviewing Juanita Aguillard, the godmother of the Morin children, who says Auboni was receiving benefits for the children even though they were not in her custody.
"This is not an abduction. What the evidence shows is that she was present. Ms. Morin was willing to sell her child for $200. On my list, I wrote down human trafficking for Morin. That is a crime. Morin lies, and lies, and lies. This is no kidnapping," Velasquez said. "We presented you with the truth. We presented you with two HPD officers."
Tanner's attorney recalled the testimony from Dr. Charles Cleveland, a Houston-based psychiatrist who examined Miguel after his return to foster care. The attorney reminded jurors that Cleveland said Miguel did have an IQ lower than what is expected for an eight-year-old, but he did not show any signs of trauma.
District attorney J. Kevin Dutton, who is co-representing the prosecution, said in his final arguments that the only two people who do not believe this is a kidnapping case are the HPD officers. He said when he spoke to Kauffelt he asked her to show him how the evidence does not prove this is a kidnapping case. Dutton says Kauffelt couldn't prove that it was otherwise but still believes it is a child interference custody case.
"You know why I didn't bring you the Houston Police Department? Because I showed you the crime," Dutton said. "The reason I wanted to cross examine these HPD officers because I believe, and the evidence shows, they did just as much as the defendants did to keep this child from being found."
Dutton asked the jurors why the defendants, Tanner and Walker, would keep Miguel from school if they had a right to keep that child. He says this shows they were not given the baby, and they knew they had to keep him in captivity to get away with it.
"Krystle Tanner is guilty of intentionally knowingly injuring this child. Gloria Walker is guilty of intentionally knowingly injuring this child," Dutton said. Krystle Tanner is guilty of intentionally knowingly kidnapping this child. Gloria Walker is guilty of intentionally knowingly kidnapping this child. That's justice."
After the verdict was read, the sentencing portion of the trial began. Walker decided to take the stand and give her testimony to the jurors.
Walker said she hasn't done anything wrong and does not believe she should go to prison. She talked about her eight children and started sobbing uncontrollably as she talked about how her kids would have no one to depend on if she went to prison. She said she has never had a problem obeying the law and begged the jury for probation.
"I'm devastated. I don't know what to do," Walker said. "I'm here in this town and I just don't know what to do."
The prosecution asked her why she would ask the jurors for her liberty and freedom when she denied Miguel this very thing. Walker said she didn't deny Miguel anything, and that his mother, Auboni, did.
Walker continued to talk about all of her health problems including heart failure, and discussed how she had been rushed to the hospital several times while she was in custody.
The defense called Walker's mother, Annie Rawlings, to the stand and asked her if she thinks Walker should have probation because of her health.
"I don't think she'll last long, so yes," Rawlings said.
Tanner took the stand after her grandmother and said that she never took Miguel with her and that he always stayed with Walker. She said wherever Walker moved, Miguel would move with her. Tanner said she would only visit her mother from time to time. Tanner says that sometime in April 2011 Walker came to San Augustine and dropped off Miguel at Tanner's home.
Dutton asked Tanner why she never put Miguel in school.
"That wasn't my place," Tanner said.
Tanner said she had two kids of her own and felt like she shouldn't put Miguel in school because he wasn't her child. While on the stand, Tanner started to point the finger at her mother. She told Dutton she had no idea Miguel was missing and said she would have acted differently if she knew Miguel had been kidnapped.
Barely holding it together, Walker sought comfort from family.
"Please, please justice has not been done here today. I've cooperated from day one. You can look at all the reports. My name is Angel Gloria Walker and my daughter's name is Krystle Rochelle Tanner. We have done nothing wrong. We've never been in trouble with the law," Walker said.
Dutton says today was a good day because Miguel can finally learn the truth.
"The good thing about these type of cases or this case in particular is regardless of the outcome, Miguel was returned so we had a good outcome in the case and now we've had a good outcome with the trial," Dutton said.
Chief Deputy Gary Cunningham from the San Augustine Sheriff's Department says he feels justice is served.
"We always felt confident that the situation is involving Miguel Morin was in fact a kidnapping and the jury also saw it that way," Cunningham said.
But Walker says justice has not been served.
"Give me the justice the right way. If you are going to take down me take it, do it right," Walker said.
Later, Tanner said that her family members call each other by different names and that she goes by "Black Princess." She said since Miguel was living with them, it only seemed fitting to give him a nickname. That's when they decided to give him the nickname, Jaquan, Tanner said.
Tanner said Auboni asked her to take care of Miguel because she didn't want him anymore. She added that she didn't know better and was only seventeen years old at the time.
Dutton told jurors that the charges will be concurrent.
Velasquez said he was taken aback by the jury's verdict and told them that there was no benefit in sending Walker to confinement because she is elderly and already has health issues. He said he does not believe life in prison is a good sentencing for Walker.