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Homeless mom gets 9-18 years in twins' starvation


June 28. 2013 2:39PM
Associated Press

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(AP) A mother of six whose infant son starved to death at a homeless shelter was sentenced Friday to nine to 18 years in prison.


A jury previously convicted 34-year-old Tanya Williams of involuntary manslaughter in 2-month-old Quasir Alexander's death, which occurred just before Christmas 2010. Quasir's twin nearly died. Williams was also convicted of aggravated assault of the surviving twin.


In court Friday, she expressed remorse for Quasir's death and said she hopes to be reunited someday with her five surviving children.


Defense lawyer Gregory Pagano said there was plenty of blame to go around, given that a caseworker saw Quasir 36 hours before he died.


Williams was the only person charged in the case, although two Lutheran Children and Family Service workers lost their jobs.


A Philadelphia hospital had released the low-weight twins to live with Williams and her four older children at the West Philadelphia homeless shelter.


Pagano also argued at trial that his client has an IQ of 65.


"She never intended for this to happen," he said Friday. "It's unfortunate that she's carrying the full brunt of it."


Common Pleas judge M. Teresa Sarmina handed down consecutive sentences related to the twins, noting that there were two victims, Pagano said.


A city-funded caseworker had deemed the boys healthy and released Williams from a voluntary parenting class just before Quasir died. The now-fired caseworker never saw the twins unclothed, her boss at Lutheran Children and Family Service testified.


The caseworker invoked her constitutional right not to testify when called by the defense.


Executive Director Richard Gitlen issued a statement after the verdict earlier this year calling the infant's death "a horrible tragedy."


"Through the years we have dedicated ourselves to tens of thousands of children," he said. "It is that commitment that compels us to learn from this loss so that we may continue to serve children and families."


Assistant District Attorney Peter Lim told jurors that Williams failed to take advantage of help offered by caseworker, a shelter worker and the visiting nurse.


Williams' case files suggest that she repeatedly made appointments to take her children for vaccines or checkups or to apply for food stamps or other programs but rarely followed through.


The twins were born at a hospital on Oct. 21 and 22 and were released on Oct. 25. Their mother had not had any prenatal visits and did not know she was carrying twins.


Williams had become homeless in September after arguments with her mother and a church friend who later took her in.


Associated Press


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