A 25-year-old Oregon woman was sentenced to life in prison Friday for the murder of her 4-year-old son, after prosecutors argued she beat him to death because he walked and talked gay.
Jessica Dutro was convicted earlier this month by a Washington County jury.
Prosecutors argued Dutro killed her son Zachary Dutro-Burgess because she thought he was gay.
Evidence presented in court included a Facebook message Dutro wrote to her boyfriend, Brian Canady, in which she complained that Zachary was gay: “He walks and talks like it. Ugh.”
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She told Canady he would have to “work on” her son.
On August, 14, 2012, she and Canady called 911 to report Zachary was unconscious after collapsing at a homeless shelter in which the couple lived with Dutro’s three children.
The toddler just turned four the day before.
Doctors at a Portland hospital diagnosed him with blunt-force trauma to his abdomen, causing his bowel to tear. He was taken off a ventilator two days later.
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Zachary died of blunt-force trauma to his abdomen and a delay in medical treatment, according to prosecutors.
Canady was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison after he received a plea deal and testified against Dutro. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault. The more serious charges, including four counts of murder by abuse, were dropped.
Police said Canady admitted during an interview that he had kicked the boy in the stomach because he didn’t take off his shoes before sitting down to watch TV.
Prosecutor Megan Johnson said Dutro subjected all of her children to a pattern of abuse, but Zachary received the harshest treatment.
The day Zachary was taken off life support, prosecutors said Dutro searched the Internet for “anger management” and “parenting classes.” She also searched for “free stuff” and “sex with strangers,” they added.
Dutro will be eligible for parole in 25 years.
The couple will never have contact with the remaining two children again.
One of Zachary’s siblings, his 8-year-old sister, who witnessed the beating, testified in court. The girl described how the couple hit her brother until he “got dead.”
"You made an 8-year-old come here and testify, in front of a jury, when you have no tryable case," said Washington County Circuit Court Judge Don Letourneau. "That is very low."