Note: This story was last updated at 12:45 p.m.
Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark announced today he plans to seek the death penalty against an Oak Ridge woman charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 18-month-old granddaughter.
Valerie Stenson was indicted earlier this year in the April 17, 2011, death of Manhattan Inman. The child was found dead in a home on Teller Village Lane, and an Anderson County grand jury indicted Stenson for first-degree murder and four counts of aggravated child abuse and neglect earlier this year.
Clark announced his intention to seek the death penalty against Stenson in a notice filed in Anderson County Criminal Court on Wednesday.
“The District Attorney General is solely responsible for determining which first-degree murder cases are appropriate to seek the death penalty and which are not,” Clark said in a statement. “Once such a decision has been made, it represents an enormous commitment of state resources and a recognition that the case will be reviewed and scrutinized exhaustively. I reached this decision considering all the factors and after careful review and consideration.”
Inman’s death had been investigated by the Oak Ridge Police Department.
In a statement Wednesday, Clark said the grand jury indictments alleged aggravated child abuse and neglect that resulted in serious bodily injury; aggravated child abuse and neglect through use of a deadly weapon; aggravated child abuse and neglect through conduct that was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or involved infliction of torture; and aggravated child abuse and neglect during the year prior to the murder.
In the death penalty notice, Clark said aggravating circumstances in the case include:
- The murder was committed against someone younger than 12 by someone older than 18.
- It was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel “in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse beyond that necessary to produce death.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.