By Juan A. Lozano Associated Press
SAN AUGUSTINE, Texas — An East Texas jury on Tuesday convicted two women of kidnapping a Houston boy when he was 8 months old and hiding him for eight years before he was found.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding Krystle Tanner and her mother, Gloria Walker, guilty of kidnapping in the 2004 disappearance of Miguel Morin, who is now 8. Walker also was found guilty of injury to a child, while the jury found Tanner guilty of a lesser charge of reckless injury to a child.
The same jury will hear evidence in the trial’s punishment phase before deciding their sentences. Walker faces up to life in prison, and Tanner could be sentenced up to 20 years.
During the four-day trial last week in San Augustine, prosecutors told jurors Tanner, who used to babysit Miguel, took the boy from his Houston apartment complex when he was a baby. They said she and her mother moved the boy from homes in Central and East Texas to avoid detection, kept him out of school and renamed him Jaquan.
After Tanner’s newborn son in April 2010 tested positive for marijuana, authorities began investigating her and later determined that she had the missing boy. Tanner and Walker were arrested in March 2012.
Defense attorneys said Miguel was not kidnapped but was sold by his biological mother to Tanner. Neither Tanner, 27, nor Walker, 51, testified in their defense.
An investigator with Houston police told jurors she thought this was not a kidnapping case but one about interference with child custody because she believed the boy’s parents and Tanner had an agreement related to his custody.
San Augustine County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Gary Cunningham testified there was significant evidence showing this was a case of kidnapping. The boy’s mother, Auboni Champion-Morin, told jurors her son was taken by Tanner. She testified Houston police did not keep in touch with her about the case.
After being found, Miguel was placed in foster case. A judge in Houston last month placed the boy with his four siblings, who are being taken care of by a Houston-area couple, Junita and Joseph Auguillard. The Auguillards have been taking care of Miguel’s siblings for nearly 10 years under an agreement they have with the boy’s parents.
Miguel has been told about the true identity of his parents and his siblings, and he has been having weekly joint therapy sessions with his parents.
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