Kenneth Neal Walker, 55, and his wife, Shelley Walker, 60, will have to serve at least 12 ½ years of that time before they are eligible for parole, Judge Jack Skeen Jr. said in court.
The jury in the 241st District Court found that the couple used the scalding water as a deadly weapon.
The couple could have received a sentence ranging from probation to life in prison for the injury to a child charge. The Walkers called the Tyler police to their home in the 4200 block of Aberdeen Drive in February after their 2-year-old granddaughter came into the living area of their home saying her feet had been burned.
The same jury convicted the couple on Tuesday of injury to a child, saying that the Walkers deliberately held the child's feet in the scalding water of the bathtub to punish her for playing in the bathroom.
The defense brought in Hershel Sloan, the son of Mrs. Walker, to testify that Kenneth Walker had been a stepfather to him since he was 7 years old. He said he never saw Walker lose his temper. “He was very loving and caring — he never raised his voice at me,” Sloan said.
Defense attorney Cameron Castleberry asked the jury to give his client a probated sentence, saying he thought that was what their 2-year-old granddaughter would want. “She'll find out about it one day and she'll appreciate that you gave her grandparents a chance,” he said.
Prosecutor Jason Parrish told the jury that there was a great deal of rage involved when the Walkers held the toddler's feet in the scalding water “for second after second.”
Parrish explained to the jury that the child had to go through more pain during the treatment of burned feet. “She has to be put under (anesthesia) and have her feet scraped — she had to learn to walk again,” he said.
Parrish told jurors that the child crawled out of her hospital bed and fell on the floor. He said she sat there until nurses put her back in the bed because it hurt too much to walk.
“You dictate what is tolerated and what is not — you must dig in for this child,” Parrish said.
Before the punishment phase of the trial began, Castleberry asked Skeen to declare a mistrial when it became known that a Walker family member who had been in the courtroom as the Walkers were pronounced guilty spoke to jury members in the hallway afterward.
The family member, who was leaving the women's restroom, allegedly mumbled under her breath while looking at the jurors that they “were a sorry bunch of people who deserved to be shot.”
Skeen called all 12 members of the jury individually into the courtroom to ask if they had been aware of the comment, and if it would prevent them from being impartial as they deliberated during the punishment phase of the trial. All jurors said they could be fair. Several jurors said they understood the family member was upset when she made the comments.