Butler Co. Mother Faces Maximum Sentence on Child Abuse Charges
Shelley Norris was sentenced to 20 years of jail time and convicted on one count of aggravated child abuse after several videos showing her beating and screaming at her then four year old son were shown in Butler County Circuit Court. The videos were allegedly filmed by Norris’s mother-in-law, Alecia Whittle, and were found during divorce proceedings for Norris and her husband.
The videos showed Norris punishing her child “military-style,” by making him do wall-sits. Wall-sits are an exercise in which a person has his or her back against a wall, then bends the legs at a 90 degree angle with arms outstretched for some period of time. Norris can be seen down in her son’s face, screaming at him to “shut up” and “be quiet,” among other threats.
“In the videos, this child couldn’t do [the punishment] for very long,” said District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer. “His little body would shake, and then she took the slat with tape on each end and just beat him.
“In one of the clips, I think it was like ten times she hit him.”
Tesmer and her team would not offer Norris less than 20 years on a plea deal, which is the maximum punishment for aggravated child abuse cases. Norris decided to take her luck with the judge, and entered a “blind” plea, which means she pleaded guilty without knowing what her ultimate punishment would be.
Norris’s attorney asked Judge Terri Lovell to not watch the videos before decided upon a punishment for Norris. Tesmer and her team countered they had the right to show any evidence they felt pertained to the case. Judge Lovell noted the defense attorney’s objection, but proceeded to watch the graphic videos.
Pictures were also shown of Norris dressing her son in what Tesmer called “pageant dresses.” Tesmer said the clothes were punishment for the son playing with his younger sister’s dolls, Norris saying “if [he was] going to act like a girl, he [was going] to dress like one.”
One particular video shows Norris stuffing, what the District Attorney’s Office identified as, a sock in the boy’s mouth to make him stop crying during the punishment. There are almost 20 clips total, each one showing the four year old crying and begging for the punishment to stop. The victim and his three siblings were taken into state custody and received psychological treatment.
The grandmother, Whittle, is also facing aggravated child abuse charges. The state offered her a 20-year plea deal as well, but she did not accept. Tesmer says Whittle is currently out on a $150,000 bond and her case will be heard at the next county trial term in December.
Tesmer hopes the children can learn to live happy, normal lives again. She also believes this has been one of the toughest cases she’s had to deal with in her time as District Attorney, simply because the evidence was difficult to watch.
“I’ve had to watch that video a few times, just to be able to stomach it,” she said. “And I’m a pretty, you know, hard nut to crack, basically. But I can’t fathom why a mother, why ANYBODY, but especially a mother would do that to a child. There’s nothing I can think of that would make any sense of it… Other than just meanness. Pure meanness.”
Norris will be serving her 20-year sentence in Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.