A grandmother pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder in the death of her young granddaughter in Oak Ridge eight years ago, and she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Valerie Stenson, 54, who has an address listed in Knoxville, was ordered to serve 100 percent of her sentence.
Stenson had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of her granddaughter, Manhattan Inman, who was 18 months old when she was found dead in a home on Teller Village Lane on April 17, 2011.
The first-degree murder charge was reduced to second-degree murder as part of the plea deal entered in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton on Tuesday.
Prosecutors had once sought the death penalty against Stenson, but it was withdrawn in March 2018. Prosecutors cited mental health issues, expense, and the strain put on the local court system in death penalty cases.
Besides second-degree murder, Stenson also pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse and neglect on Tuesday, and she received a 30-year sentence on that count, also to be served at 100 percent.
The two sentences are concurrent, meaning they will be served at the same time. The result was an effective 30-year sentence for Stenson.
As part of the plea deal, three counts of aggravated child abuse and neglect were dismissed. So were nine counts of aggravated child abuse or neglect (three of those charges are listed as aggravated child endangerment in court records).
The 100 percent sentence is unusual, compared to many sentences. Standard offenders often have a release eligibility date set at 35 percent of their sentences.
In February, a trial had been scheduled for Stenson for May 14-16.
Seventh Judicial District Deputy Attorney General Anthony J. Craighead was the prosecutor in the case. Thomas Slaughter was the defense attorney. Court records also list a co-counsel for Stenson, R. Alexander Brown. Donald R. Elledge was the judge.
The Anderson County Grand Jury indicted Stenson for first-degree murder and four counts of aggravated child abuse and neglect on March 6, 2012.
The next year, she was indicted on nine counts of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and aggravated child endangerment in cases involving three other children. Those charges were filed September 3, 2013. They included three counts each of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and aggravated child endangerment.
Those offenses allegedly occurred between April 15, 2010, and April 15, 2011, and all three victims were under 18, the indictments said. The indictments said the abuse caused serious bodily injury to the children, or caused injury and the abuse was “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, or involved the affliction of torture.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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