US teenager jailed over torture death

A TEENAGER has been jailed for 30 years for his role in the 2008 US torture killing of a pregnant, developmentally impaired mother who police say died after weeks of systematic scaldings, beatings, burns from a glue gun and being used as target practice with a BB gun.

Benny Wilson, 19, twice declined to address the judge as the last of six defendants sentenced in Dorothy Dixon’s death, which police say Wilson admitted contributing to by routinely shooting birdshot pellets at her with an air gun “playing around”.

At least once when he ran out of BBs, an investigator testified today, Wilson used a knife to dig the ammunition out of Dixon’s flesh and fired them off at Dixon again.

“This is the final chapter of a horror story,” Alton police chief David Hayes said glumly after Wilson got a prison sentence that roughly splits the difference between the 45-year term prosecutors sought and the two decades behind bars suggested by Wilson’s lawyer, Rand Hale.

The Madison County judge, James Hackett, agreed with Hale that there was plenty of shared blame for “the savagery” that befell Dixon.  But Mr Hackett ultimately concluded the strongest sentence should remain the 45-year term assessed to Michelle Riley, the woman identified by authorities as the torture’s ringleader.

Investigators have said Dixon was a 29-year-old mother with a childlike mind and another baby on the way when she was found dead in January 2008 at Riley’s house, where she had been banished to the basement.  Police said Riley had befriended Dixon but pocketed monthly Social Security cheques she got because of her mental disabilities.

Dixon saw little, if any, of the money, which Riley used to pay rent and other bills.  Authorities say Dixon, who was six months pregnant with a baby boy when she died, ate what she could forage from the refrigerator upstairs, where housemates shot her with BBs, doused her with scalding liquid that peeled away her skin, and assaulted her with a plunger handle.

They also burned what few clothes she had, authorities have said, so she walked around naked.

Overnight, Alton police detective Jennifer Tierney testified that the night before Dixon’s body was found, Wilson kicked the woman in the head and the face after finding she had used his bed but had bloodied it from her festering wounds.  After that assault, Tierney said, Wilson cleaned Dixon’s blood from his shoes.

Evidence suggested a pot of boiling water was left on the stove almost daily for quick use on Dixon, an investigator has testified.  When police found Dixon’s body, clad only in a sweater and covered with towels in the basement, deep-tissue burns covered about one-third of her body – her face, chest, arms and feet – and left her severely dehydrated, police have said.

Many of her wounds were infected, many BBs still lodged in her flesh.  A coroner’s jury concluded that Dixon died of an accumulation of injuries over time.  Her unborn child, delivered stillborn during Dixon’s autopsy, died because the mother did, the jury ruled.  Dixon’s year-old boy weighed just 6.8kg when taken into state custody after his mom’s death, police have said.

His whereabouts were unclear on Friday.

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