Woman imprisoned in toddler's death may be freed early
A woman sentenced to 31/2 years in prison for the beating death of her toddler son in 2007 will likely serve less than half of that time as a result of new state legislation and early release programs, officials say.
Trisha Marie Torresan, 27, pleaded guilty in March 2007 in Jackson County Circuit Court to first-degree criminally negligent homicide and first-degree criminal mistreatment.
Police and emergency crews were called to Torresan's home on Main Street in Phoenix on Feb. 22, 2007. Investigators determined 2-year-old Caleb David Hearne was killed from a blow to the body that caused a hemorrhage around his liver and pancreas.
After the incident, Torresan released her parental rights to her infant daughter, who was permanently adopted by a family from outside the area.
Both children were covered in bruises and had black eyes at the time of Caleb's death.
With credit for time served prior to her plea agreement, Torresan was eligible for release on May 20, 2010, said Beth Heckert, chief deputy district attorney.
State law allows prisoners who have exhibited good behavior to be released after serving only 80 percent of their sentences. New legislation (House Bill 3508) put into effect this summer subtracts an additional 10 percent for those prisoners eligible for early "good-time" release, Heckert said.
That would move up her projected release date to March 26, 2010, Heckert said. On top of that, a "transitional" early release program run by the state prison system deducts an additional six months from Torresan's sentence.
"She will presumably be eligible for transitional leave on Nov. 9, 2009," Heckert said, adding that could be anything from supervised probation to living in a halfway house.
A Monday afternoon hearing was scheduled before Circuit Court Judge Ray White so he could receive testimony from the surviving victims in the case — the toddler's father, grandmother and aunt — arguing against Torresan's early release.
The legal presumption is that all eligible prisoners will be granted the additional early release time. However, under the state bill, victims may testify against early release by presenting evidence related to the case.
If the judge finds compelling evidence against allowing the early release, he can rule against it, Heckert said.
But Monday's hearing was canceled when the family members declined to testify after they learned that the prison's transitional release program meant Torresan was eligible for an even greater sentence reduction, Heckert said.
"They came to court, but ultimately decided not to testify. I think they figured, 'What was the point?" she said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail email@example.com.