Dallas man sentenced to 99 years for starving kids
DALLAS — A Dallas man convicted of starving three children locked in a hotel bathroom for nearly a year was sentenced to 99 years in prison Tuesday after jurors heard testimony that one child was suicidal and another preferred urinating in his hospital bed to entering a restroom.
The youngest victim, a 6-year-old boy whose head barely peeked over the witness stand, told jurors he liked the hospital where he was taken after being rescued from the squalid hotel along a busy Dallas highway in July 2009. “I got to eat,” he said. The jury sentenced Alfred Santiago, 38, hours after they convicted him of injury to a child and continuous sexual abuse. Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence. Santiago’s attorney had asked for 25 years, the minimum allowed under the sex abuse conviction. Santiago also was fined $20,000.
After the sentencing, Santiago told the judge he would appeal.
“God knows I am not guilty of these charges,” he said.
The children were emaciated when they were found last summer. Their ribs and spines showed through flaky skin, and the oldest child, an 11-year-old girl, told authorities that she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted.
The youngest boy, then 5, weighed less than 30 pounds — about the weight of a healthy 2-year-old. Pictures of the children were pinned above the witness stand throughout the trial.
During the sentencing hearing, the boy described Santiago beating him with broomsticks and belts. Jurors also heard from the children’s therapist, who said the oldest boy has been hospitalized three times for being suicidal.
“He worried that he would have to go to hell because he could not forgive Alfredo,” Dr. Ashley Lind said.
Another doctor, Matthew Cox, said two of the children were terrified of the bathroom. One, who had suffered brain atrophy related to chronic starvation, preferred urinating in his hospital bed to going into the bathroom. The same child gained 22 pounds in less than two months in the hospital, thanks to a healthy diet.
Testifying in his own defense a day earlier, Santiago repeatedly denied sexually assaulting the girl, beating her brothers or denying the children food. He said he made them breakfast and lunch every day and it wasn’t his fault the children refused to eat.
Santiago also said he could not explain why he told investigators he awoke from naps to find himself having sex with the girl. He could not recall telling police that, he said.
Prosecutor Eren Price told jurors in her closing argument that the case was about isolation, hopelessness, suffering, torture and starvation.
“Mostly, the evidence in this case has been about evil,” Price said. “These kids thought they were going to die in that bathroom.”
Santiago’s defense attorney, Richard Carrizales, blamed the children’s mother, Abneris Santiago, for denying them food and suggested the testimony about beatings and rapes was unreliable.
Each of the three children have different fathers. Alfred and Abneris Santiago, who share a last name but were not married, have a daughter who was 1 when they were arrested. She was healthy.
Abneris Santiago’s trial is scheduled to begin today.