A St. John the Baptist Parish jury on Friday convicted Errol Victor of second-degree murder and his wife, Tonya, of manslaughter in the death of Tonya Victor’s 8-year-old son, M.L Lloyd III after a bizarre trial in which the Victors represented themselves.
A conviction for second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence. Manslaughter, under Louisiana law, carries a term of 10 to 40 years when the victim is under 10 years old.
The jury agreed with prosecutors’ contention that a brutal beating — delivered by either M.L.’s mother or stepfather — was the reason the child was pronounced dead at River Parishes Hospital on April 1, 2008.
Prosecutors said M.L was savagely whipped with a belt for stealing an ice-cream snack.
Four of Tonya Victor’s biological sons testified that it was Errol Victor who beat the child that day.
In chilling testimony, they characterized Errol Victor as an abusive and controlling stepfather, who often withheld food from his stepchildren while allowing his own kids to eat as much as they pleased.
They also stated Errol Victor had other children hold M.L down while he flogged him on the day he died.
Toi Williams, 21, said M.L was “crying and crying” and Errol Victor was “throwing him around, punching him.”
He testified that M.L was bleeding badly, and Errol Victor applied rubbing alcohol to the wounds.
But five of Errol Victor’s sons offered a much different version of events, testifying that their father wasn’t home at the time of the assault and that it was Tonya Victor who beat M.L.
The child was brought to the hospital by his parents later in the day and was pronounced dead upon arrival.
The Victors represented themselves in the case, an unusual maneuver that at times left prosecutors and Judge Mary Hotard Becnel visibly frustrated with the couple’s lack of legal knowledge and courtroom decorum.
Under cross-examination from her own husband, Tonya Victor admitted she had physically reprimanded the child. However, when shown photographs of M.L’s bruised body, she denied inflicting the full extent of the injuries.
The couple was living in Reserve with 13 children, 11 from previous marriages, at the time of the death.
They contended M.L died from an asthma attack, though they acknowledged the child was disciplined on the day he died.
But the coroner listed “asphyxia due to neck compression” as the cause of death, and an autopsy showed extensive bruising.
The second-degree murder charge meant prosecutors only had to prove the two intended to inflict great bodily harm on the child, but not necessarily kill him.
The Victors had been indicted three times over six years for the killing.
They were scheduled for trial in August 2011, but fled on the eve of proceedings. They spent eight months on the run, even appearing on the show “America’s Most Wanted.”
They were arrested in 2012 in a mobile home in Georgia based on a tip from someone who had seen them on television.