Tatriauna Roberts showed no emotion Monday as Judge Brian Gary sentenced her to 60 years in prison for the starvation death of her two month old baby Amori Long back in June of 2017.
The 25-year-old mother who gave birth to seven children, five of which are still living, had no prior criminal history when she was convicted back in June of the infant’s death.
The case began back on June 12, 2017 when Roberts called for help for her son, Amori Long. Gunter Police and Fire Department both sent responders to her apartment. When those responders arrived, they found Amori cold to the touch and unresponsive. Though paramedics tried, they were not able to revive the baby who was pronounced dead at Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center in Sherman.
Testimony during her week-long trial back in June revealed that Amori had been a twin. His sister died in Roberts’ womb and she had to carry her until she could safely deliver Amori.
Roberts did not take the stand on her own behalf during the sentencing phase of the trial. Her attorney Garland Cardwell called no witnesses to the stand.
During closing arguments, Cardwell asked the judge to sentence his client at the lower end of the range of punishment that went from probation to life in prison.
Cardwell said she was a young mother on her own with five young children and two jobs.
“She was overwhelmed financially and otherwise,” Cardwell said. He argued that she loved her children and could be a productive member of society and maybe even pay child support for those children if she were allowed to get out of prison.
He stressed that though she was not able to care for them the way some would, she kept her children in her care until she was arrested in Amori’s death.
Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Bi Hunt, a mother herself, quibbled with the idea that Roberts loved Amori or her other children. Hunt showed Gary an autopsy photo of Amori that showed his shrunken belly and ribs that towered over it. It also showed his stick-like arms and legs and tiny little flat bottom with no baby fat.
“Whether or not she loves her kids, that does’t give her a pass on Amori,” Hunt said.
She said the sentencing phase was not all about Roberts’ life and what was good for her. Some of it had to be able Amori’s life and the potential lost to society when Roberts allowed him to starve to death.
Looking at the photo, Hunt said, “She held him like this.” Hunt reminded the judge that Roberts had given birth to other children and had been cautioned with those children that her breast did not provide enough milk for a child to survive.
“It was her job to feed him,” Hunt said. She added. “She held him … within a few feet there was formula,” she said referring to bottles of pre-made formula police photographed in the pantry of Roberts’ home.
“This child deserved love and the child deserved care,” she said.
“This is a life she took,” Hunt continued.
Gary addressed Roberts before he handed down the sentence.
“You may not think I am being merciful Mrs. Roberts, but I am,” he said and then he told her she faced 60 years in prison.
Hunt said there are no winners in a case like this. Roberts will likely have to serve half of that sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Her other children are currently in the custody of a Gunter family who had tried to help Roberts before she was arrested on Amori’s death.
Lara Martin, the mother of that family, testified Roberts other children were also hungry in those months after Amori died. She said she would take the children to her home and feed them and they would whisper in the adults’ ears that they wanted food to take home.
Martin said when she took Roberts grocery shopping Roberts would buy some food but would fill her cart with sports drinks and meal replacement drinks. Martin said she questioned Roberts about it and Roberts said, “It’s quick, easy and it fills them up.”
The church, Martin said, offered to give the family a complete Thanksgiving meal for the holiday and Roberts said they didn’t want that.
Martin said Roberts’ children are all thriving now. She said one of the older girls does show some signs of still feeling insecure about food but otherwise they are doing well.
Hunt had previously said this was the one of the worst cases of child abuse she had ever witnessed. She said it was hard to see someone so young face such a lengthy sentence, but “all of the evidence says that she just sat there and watched him, all of the evidence.”
The prosecutor said Roberts’ actions showed “just a lack of care” for the infant who deepened upon her. Hunt said the Facebook posts that Roberts made during that time showed no effort on her part to get any help.
Cardwell could not be immediately reached for a comment Monday afternoon.