Tonya and Errol Victor Sr., convicted in the beating death of their 8-year-old son, remained emphatically defiant as they received lengthy prison sentences on Monday, shouting at the judge and lashing out at the media as they were led from the courthouse.
Six years after the death of M.L. Lloyd III, Tonya Victor’s biological son, the bizarre legal drama centered on the Reserve couple drew to a close with a final few hours in an Edgard courtroom.
Both parents, who represented themselves at trial, took the time given them for remarks to attack the judge and prosecutors, maintaining to the last moment that they had been unfairly blamed for what amounted to a “family tragedy.” Each of them faced charges for the 2008 death, which prosecutors described as the result of a vicious beating over some stolen ice cream. Tonya Victor received a 21-year prison term; she will have to serve at least a third of it before the possibility of parole. Errol Victor, convicted last month of second-degree murder, received a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
In August, a jury of nine women and three men voted 10-2 to convict Errol Victor and unanimously found Tonya Victor guilty of manslaughter, a lesser charge that carried a potential jail term of 10 to 40 years because the victim was younger than 10.
Errol Victor’s sentencing came first. He called the legal case against him and his wife a “conspiracy,” yelling that they had been railroaded by “a feminist judge with a feminist prosecutor,” and at one point oddly referring to the dead boy as “property.”
“This is fraud,” he yelled. “This whole case has been a fraud.”
He continued, “We refuse anything you’re doing. We don’t recognize your authority.”
Judge Mary Hotard Becnel handed down the sentences in a steady, measured tone, saying, “All children are innocent and undeserving of cruelty and violence, such as the brutal beating that little M.L. endured at the hands of those who should have been his protectors.”
“Throughout the trial,” she told the Victors, “you described what happened as your ‘family tragedy,’ a tragedy that began with the taking of an extra ice cream. But what you fail to acknowledge is how the law characterizes your actions: cruelty to a child, in the extreme, and ultimately — murder.”
Several times as she read her remarks, Errol Victor interrupted. “An outright lie,” he shouted.
Prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s Office, who handled the case, told the judge they had spoken with Tonya Victor’s biological children, who urged leniency for their mother, as well as M.L. Lloyd’s biological father, who suggested a sentence in the range of 20 years.
Tonya Victor, given an opportunity to address the court, expressed no remorse, instead angrily insisting on Errol Victor’s innocence.
“My husband wasn’t home when I chastised my son,” she yelled.
Later, as her sentence was read, she lost her composure and attempted to leave the courtroom, having to be physically restrained by two bailiffs. The scuffle lasted several minutes. “You can finish without me,” she yelled. “I’m done.”
Becnel, raising her voice to be heard, told Tonya Victor that she believed her to be “under some type of control by your husband at the time of the crime, and you appear to continue to be under some control or influence of your husband.”
“I also could not help but note throughout all proceedings your apparent lack of remorse, both for your husband’s participation in the crime and for your own passive participation in the crime,” Becnel said.
Prosecutors said during closing arguments that the young boy suffered a beating at the hand of his stepfather as punishment for the stolen snack, while his mother stood by and did nothing.
“This child basically bled to death inside his own body,” prosecutor Julie Cullen told jurors at the 40th Judicial District Court in St. John the Baptist Parish, describing the alleged beating in graphic detail.
Standing in the hallway of the courthouse Monday, Cullen said she was “very satisfied” with the sentencing.
“Obviously, it’s been a long road, but finally there’s some conclusion to this,” she said.
Errol Victor, though, continued shouting as he was led out of the courthouse and into an idling sheriff’s car, yelling to a reporter: “It’s a fraud. They’re going to be put in jail. Every last one of them.”
The case’s twists and turns drew widespread attention, particularly the courthouse theatrics as the Victors hired and fired their attorneys nearly a dozen times, only to end up once again representing themselves.
The couple each had children from past relationships when they married: Errol Victor, a businessman and real estate developer, had six children; Tonya Victor, a stay-at-home mom, had five. Together, they had two more children.
In April 2010, the couple was indicted on second-degree murder charges.
It was the third time they had been indicted in relation to Lloyd’s death.
For years, they maintained their innocence, saying the boy suffered a severe asthma attack provoked by fighting with his brothers. At the trial, medical authorities disputed that claim, suggesting the boy may have died hours before arriving at the hospital. “Asphyxia due to neck compression” was listed as the cause of death; an autopsy showed extensive bruising.
Errol Victor initially was charged with first-degree murder, while Tonya Victor was charged with cruelty to a juvenile and being a principal to first-degree murder.
That indictment was dismissed after she allegedly acknowledged to sheriff’s deputies that she had hit Lloyd with a belt on the day he died.
Prosecutors then convened a second St. John grand jury, which in 2009 returned an indictment against the couple charging both with second-degree murder.
That meant prosecutors needed to prove the couple intended to inflict great bodily harm but not necessarily kill the boy. However, another judge vacated that indictment because a St. John sheriff’s deputy serving on the second grand jury panel had worn a shirt advertising his employment with the department.
In April 2010, the couple was indicted for the third time.
The Victors were slated for trial in August 2011, but they fled on the eve of the proceedings and remained at large for eight months, during which time they were featured on the television program “America’s Most Wanted.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY .