Five days of emotional testimony, more than a hundred graphic pictures detailing the abuse and nearly four hours of a video interrogation of Terry Sturgis helped convict the South Bend father of murdering his son.
The jury deliberated less than 4 hours before convicting him of all 14 charges against him – including killing his 10-year old son Tramelle.
A few hours after the verdicts were read, one juror told WSBT off camera the most difficult part of the trial was listening to Terry Sturgis’ two little boys – ages 9 and 14 – testify against their dad.
The decision was not an easy one but, she said, “the evidence spoke for itself.”
Police officers and lawyers agreed – it’s one of the worst cases of child abuse they’ve ever seen.
“I don’t agree with all the verdicts but I can certainly understand why they would come down the way they did,” said defense attorney Jeff Kimmell.
“This one was pretty emotional, this one was pretty tough,” added prosecuting attorney Joel Gabrielse. “I think you saw that with the jury, I think you felt it in the courtroom. This one did feel a little bit different.”
“It just tears you apart to see a little boy like that and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do,” said St. Joseph County Assistant Metro Homicide Commander Lt. Dave Wells.
Sturgis is guilty of beating Tramelle to death, tying up Tramelle and his 14-year-old son with duct tape, burning them and his now 9-year-old son with a hot clothing iron and beating them with a 3-foot-long dowel rod.
As he left the courtroom Thursday afternoon, Sturgis put his hand up to his sister as if to say, ‘Don’t cry, I’ll be OK.’
She left the courthouse sobbing.
Police escorted Tramelle’s mother and also the mother of the 9 and 14-year-old boys who testified against Sturgis, Tiffany Townsend, to her car. She did not want to talk with reporters.
Police also escorted jurors to their cars. They also declined to talk with news media.
It’s been a difficult and emotional trial for everyone.
“I do have kids. They got hugged a lot, kept asking me why I was hugging them so hard, so often,” Gabrielse said. “I said ‘You’re just gonna have to deal with it.’”
But it’s finally over, and a jury of his peers held Terry Sturgis accountable for years of abuse and a horrific night inside a Washington Street home last November when he killed his son.
Sturgis’ sentencing is slated for June 21. The maximum sentence the judge could give him is 329 ½ years, but it’s doubtful that will happen because of double jeopardy.
Legally speaking, some of the charges are similar to others, Gabrielse explained. For example, the murder conviction and felony neglect of a dependent conviction that resulted in Tramelle’s death overlap in some areas, so judge Jane Woodward Miller said she’ll make a final ruling on the matter at sentencing.
Sturgis will be sentenced at the same time his mother, Dellia Castile, is scheduled to be on trial. She’s charged with three counts of felony neglect of a dependent. The state says Castile tended to the boys’ injuries and covered for her son during years of abuse.
Her trial is scheduled to begin June 18
Woodward Miller called the 12 jurors and 2 alternates back into her chambers after the verdicts were read, thanked them for their service and had a local counselor there to speak with them about the horrific photographs they saw and heartbreaking testimony they heard.
They were also given information about how to get counseling in the days, weeks and months ahead, should they need it.