Illinois parents get decades in child's starvation death

JERSEYVILLE, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois father and stepmother will spend decades in prison in the starvation death of their 6-year-old son, who authorities say weighed just 17 pounds when he died.

Chief Circuit Judge Eric S. Pistorius on Wednesday sentenced Michael L. Roberts to 25 years in prison and Georgena L. Roberts to 20 years, The Alton Telegraph reported . The 43-year-olds from Jerseyville both pleaded guilty in November to first-degree murder in the 2017 death of Liam Roberts.

"For this to have occurred is beyond comprehension," the judge said.

Authorities have said the couple starved the boy as a form of punishment and that they withheld food and nourishment on a regular basis. When he died, Liam weighed about a third of the typical weight of a 6-year-old. A preliminary autopsy indicated he died of extreme malnourishment.

"The two solely responsible for the death of this beautiful child will now spend the better part of their adult lives in prison, where they belong," Jersey County State's Attorney Ben Goetten and Jerseyville Police Chief Brad Blackorby said in a joint statement.

School personnel said Liam was so obsessed with food that "when he came to school he would literally eat food off the floor," Jerseyville Police Department deputy chief Maj. Scott Woelfel said.

Liam's biological mother, Kim Roberts, spoke at the hearing, calling out the "evil people" who ensured her son died "terrified" and "alone." The Telegraph report didn't explain why she did not have custody of Liam.

Georgena and Michael Roberts made emotional statements and their attorneys asked for leniency. Michael Roberts described himself as a "coward" and said his son paid the price. His wife apologized, saying: "My heart is shattered and I will be forever broken."