by BRAD ROLLINS
The father of Benjamin Spencer took the stand Monday to address the woman convicted of killing his 10-week-old baby in November 2010.
“We collectively as a family are stronger than you. My son was a better human being during his short life than you could ever hope to be in your miserable existence,” said Duane Spencer, the band director at Simon Middle School.
Kyle day care provider Christina Lyons was found guilty of capital murder after more than a week of testimony. District Judge Bill Henry sentenced Lyons to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the automatic sentence for capital murder cases in which the district attorney does not seek the death penalty.
Jurors were given the option of leaving the courtroom for the portion of the trial where the victim’s family gets to address the defendant. One juror got up and left but the others remained while Duane Spencer spoke.
“Our trust for any human being has been shattered so much so that we had to overcome the untruth that we were inadequate parents and couldn’t tell the difference between the monster you were and the loving mom you pretended to be. We are stronger than that and we know the truth,” Duane Spencer said.
“You will always have the satisfaction of knowing the truth of what you did and why you will rot in prison,” he said. “We will never know … why such an innocent child had to suffer at the hands of a monster.”
During days of testimony, prosecutors had sought to portray 33-year-old Lyons as a pill-popping, emotionally unstable shirker who blames her young daughter for injuries that killed Benjamin Spencer.
Defense attorneys cast her as a conscientious and hardworking daughter of a Comal County sheriff’s deputy who made a deadly mistake of leaving the baby alone within reach of her daughter while she used the restroom, sorted laundry and smoked a cigarette in the garage.
Answering questions from court-appointed defense counsel Ariel Payan, Lyons acknowledged she failed in her duties as a childcare provider but said she didn’t kill or otherwise harm the baby.
Lyons testified she returned from her break to find her young daughter in the backyard holding a baby with a knot on his head. Benjamin died of injuries that included skull and rib fractures a week later.
“Whose job was it to protect him?” Payan asked.
“It was mine,” Lyons said.
“Did you do that?” Payan asked.
“No,” Lyons said through tears.
She testified she did not tell Kyle Police Det. Pedro Carrasco that she found her daughter holding Benjamin because she wasn’t thinking clearly and didn’t want to involve the girl. She did, however, tell a Child Protective Services agent that her daughter was holding the baby when she reported the incident to daycare licensers the next morning.
Lyons testified she sneaked away once or twice every day from the seven or eight children she watched to smoke a cigarette in the garage.
She admitted she left Benjamin lying unattended on the living room couch while she did this on more than one occasion. But said she only did so during nap time when the older children were lying down elsewhere at her Steeplechase home.
A Dell Children’s Hospital radiologist who reviewed Benjamin’s medical images testified that most likely his injuries could not have been caused by a four-year-old girl.