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December 13, 2013

Turlock mother sentenced to 15 years to life in 2-year-old daughter’s death

Brandy Lee Rose Devine was sentenced for 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder in the July 2012 death of her daughter, Stephanie Torres. The 2-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was left alone in a room without water or food for nearly three days before she was found dead in her crib.

Brandy Lee Rose Devine stood in court Friday and apologized to her children, especially the 2-year-old daughter who was left alone in a room without water or food for nearly three days before being found dead in her crib.

“I hope they can forgive me one day,” Devine said shortly before she was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the death of Stephanie Torres.

The defendant told authorities she smoked methamphetamine with an unknown man in her home while Stephanie, who had cerebral palsy, remained alone in another room that weekend.

A jury last month decided Devine was guilty of second-degree murder in the July 2012 death of her daughter. The jury of six women and six men deliberated for about an hour before they returned to the courtroom with a verdict.

On Friday, Devine also apologized to the rest of her family, several of whom were in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions,” Devine said in court. “I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected by my actions.”

In criminal cases, victims or members of their families are allowed to speak in court before the sentencing. When the prosecutor asked, nobody stood up in court Friday to speak on Stephanie’s behalf or about the impact of her death.

Devine, 26, also was found guilty of committing willful cruelty to a child with an enhancement of inflicting great bodily injury on the child, along with a misdemeanor charge of using meth. For these charges, the defendant received a stayed sentence of 10 years and 90 days. That means she could be ordered to serve that additional time in prison if she is released and violates parole.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves scheduled Devine to be transferred to prison Jan. 3.

In his closing arguments to the jury, Deputy Public Defender Marcus Mumford didn’t contest the child cruelty and meth use charges. But he said his client didn’t know at the time that not feeding her child or giving her water would result in Stephanie’s death.

While Devine acted irresponsibly, Mumford told the jury, her conduct was criminally negligent but not murder.

Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne told the jurors that the defendant knew her actions could have grave results. He said the child starved to death in a “monstrous” fashion with her mother just a few feet away throughout that weekend.

The prosecutor also told the jury there was plenty of formula for Stephanie in the home, and Devine fed her other three children that weekend, including her infant son. Mayne and Deputy District Attorney Merrill Hoult prosecuted the case against Devine.

Stephanie was prematurely born at 29 weeks and had suffered complications that resulted from a lack of oxygen to the brain. The premature birth resulted in her chronic medical conditions.

Cerebral palsy forced Stephanie to undergo regular occupational therapy to improve her delayed motor skills. She also required a nightly dose of medication.

Pathologist Eugene Carpenter testified in the trial that Stephanie died from dehydration and malnourishment. He said she had not been fed or given anything to drink for several days before she was found dead.

Carpenter also said Stephanie had been dead a day or two when she was discovered in the crib about 12:30 p.m. July 16, 2012, at her family’s duplex in the 1100 block of North Denair Avenue in Turlock.

Even though Stephanie was nearing her third birthday, her body appeared the size of a 1- or 2-year-old in her autopsy, according to the pathologist. He testified the child weighed about 13 pounds and that her eyes were soft and her skin was like red dough, both signs of dehydration. He said her abdomen was caved in so much that her spine was almost visible.

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