DALLAS (AP) — A woman on trial for the dehydration death of her 10-year-old stepson told a jury Thursday that she limited the boy's water several times shortly before his death but never thought he was in danger.
Tina Marie Alberson is charged with felony injury to a child in the July 2011 death of Jonathan James, who collapsed at his father and Alberson's south Dallas home. Authorities say he'd been kept in the home without water for days as punishment for bed wetting, sneaking food and other supposed mistakes.
Alberson, testifying in her own defense, said she saw no sign that the boy was in medical distress, The Dallas Morning News reported (http://bit.ly/10DdPHJ).
"There was no sign of anything. I would lay down my life for those kids," the 44-year-old woman said, also noting that she takes medication for a bipolar disorder.
The defense rested its case following her testimony. Jonathan's twin brother had testified earlier in the day, saying he watched his brother die of dehydration while being punished by their stepmother, allegedly for minor transgressions.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday morning.
Alberson faces up to life in prison if convicted. The twins' father, Michael James, will go on trial for the same charge next month.
Earlier Thursday, Jonathan's twin brother, Joseph, testified that he was concerned for his brother's health but was too scared of Alberson to do anything.
Joseph, who is now 12, said that when he tried to sneak some water to Jonathan, she stopped him.
"He would be asking for water and she would say, 'No, because you're in trouble,'" Joseph testified.
As Jonathan lost consciousness the night of his death, Alberson and her biological son pulled him out of a bathtub and tried to resuscitate him.
"I started panicking because he didn't have a heartbeat, he didn't have a pulse and I was scared," Joseph said.
Michael James testified earlier Thursday that he thought Jonathan was being deprived of water, but he never heard Alberson forbid Jonathan from drinking. The 43-year-old father has used a wheelchair in court and is believed to have health problems.
Michael James said he was testifying against Alberson to "see that justice gets done" for Jonathan. But Alberson's attorney, Bill Fay, questioned why he would take the stand and pointed to earlier statements in which he lied to police.
Jonathan and Joseph were staying with Michael James and Alberson for one month as part of a court-ordered custody visit. The couple's home didn't have working air conditioning during a summer when temperatures often hit 100 degrees.
Alberson admitted under questioning from a Dallas detective that she didn't give Jonathan water every time he asked for it, according to a video recording played in court this week.
"I obviously did this," she told the detective on the tape. "I didn't mean to do it. I didn't intentionally hurt that child."
The twins' biological mother, Krista Bishop, described on Wednesday the sight of her dying son at the hospital.
"He was pale, no life to him, nothing," Bishop said. "He was just laying there."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com