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Mother put away for abuse of child

A state welfare worker described a 13-year-old boy's life of constant abuse at a hearing where his adoptive mother was sentenced to prison Friday for whipping him with an electrical cord ' a punishment for snacking between meals.

Based on aggravating factors, Terri Ann Walker, 44, was ordered Friday to serve seven and a half years ' more than the mandatory prison sentence ' on her conviction of two counts of second-degree assault, and one count each of third-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment. Walker was convicted in a June bench trial before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Bill Purdy.

Walker's adopted son, then 12, weighed 81 pounds in October last year when he was found badly beaten and hiding inside Costco. He had fled his Sparta Way home, about a mile from the store, after being whipped with an electrical cord until his legs buckled, said Department of Human Services caseworker Clare Bruch. Three days earlier Walker had hit him in the face with a glass jar.

(He) was beaten repeatedly for eating between meals, said Matt Chancellor, deputy district attorney for Jackson County. This kid was their slave.

The boy often worked from midnight until the early morning hours delivering as many as 500 newspapers on a route his parents drove for the , Bruch said. At times he was tied to his bed, and received only small rations of food, Bruch told the court.

— Walker's husband, Lyle William Walker, 52, held the boy while his wife beat him, Bruch said. After agreeing to testify against his wife, Lyle Walker pleaded guilty in June to a charge of second-degree assault and was sentenced to a year and six months in prison.

Both he and his wife have remained in jail since their Oct. 28 arrest. The victim, who did not appear in court, and his adoptive brother remain in protective state custody.

The Walkers adopted the boy when he was 6 years old after his biological father advertised for a good home on the Internet, Bruch said. No home visit was made or interview conducted for the adoption.

At age 4, the boy had seen his mother's body taken out of their home on a gurney after she fatally shot herself in the head. He also had suffered abuse at the hands of his biological mother, Bruch added.

However, the crime was out of character for Walker, who had worked for years as a baby-sitter and never abused the family's other adopted child, said defense attorney Paul Beneke. The victim came to the family with significant problems, he added.

This was a family unable to cope with this child, he said.

As Chancellor petitioned for consecutive sentences, a total of 11 years and eight months, Beneke argued that Walker shouldn't receive a sentence 12 times the length of her husband's punishment.

Walker didn't say anything before hearing her sentence. She is to stand trial again in September on charges that she sexually abused the boy in 1998. She initially faced a jury on the allegations in May, but jurors could not agree if she was guilty.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail Mother put away for abuse of child"slemon@mailtribune.com.