Oregon jurors took a little more than an hour to convict a 25-year-old woman of murder in the death of her 4-year-old son. A prosecutor who emphasized that the boy’s sister had witnessed the fatal beating said earlier that a motive behind the violence was the woman’s belief that the boy was gay.
Sentencing for Jessica Dutro was set for April 18 in Washington County Circuit Court.
Little Zachary Dutro-Boggess died of intestinal tears caused by abdominal trauma, The Oregonian reported. He collapsed at the homeless shelter where his family was living southwest of Portland.
Jurors were told that Zachary’s then-7-year-old sister watched her mother and her mother’s boyfriend beat the boy on Aug. 12, 2012.
“They beat up my brother, then he died,” the girl told her counselor. “I seen them.”
The boyfriend, Brian Canady, earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault for his role in the boy’s death.
The case drew widespread attention after prosecutors asked the court to allow Facebook messages from Dutro into evidence.
In one message to her boyfriend, Dutro wrote using a slur that Zachary would be gay. “He walks like it and talks like it ugh,” she wrote. That made her angry, she added, and directed Canady to “work on” Zachary “big time.”
Prosecutor Megan Johnson told the court the message showed Dutro’s motive for subjecting Zachary to a pattern of abuse. Judge Don Letourneau deemed the message admissible.
Defense lawyer Chris Colburn said the message did not prove any motive on Dutro’s part. Colburn argued none of the evidence tied Dutro to the crime.
In her closing argument, Johnson focused on the little girl’s words, rather than on the Facebook messages.
In his closing, Colburn addressed the Facebook comments and Dutro’s use of a slur.
What she wrote was meant as a joke, he said. While it was offensive, he said it would be ridiculous to draw a connection between the message and the little boy’s death.