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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2007
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Huntsville woman gets life for starving children

HUNTSVILLE (AP) — A Huntsville woman who allowed her three children to starve to death was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday.

Natashay Ward, 32, pleaded guilty to three counts of reckless murder Wednesday, and Circuit Judge Loyd H. Little Jr. sentenced her to three consecutive life sentences, The Huntsville Times reported.

Ward will be eligible for parole in 45 years under Alabama Pardons and Parole guidelines.

Ward's children — Shanieka Y. Ward, 11; Latrica L. Ward, 9; and Christopher O. Ward, 8 — were found dead in Ward's Huntsville apartment on Feb. 4, 2005. Police said they starved to death.

Ward pleaded not guilty last year to capital murder charges because of mental disease or defect.

She was scheduled to stand trial on the capital murder charges next week, but Deputy District Attorney Robert Broussard and defense attorneys Mark McDaniel and Robert Tuten all said they thought the plea agreement was a just outcome.

"I wasn't willing to take the risk that a jury would find her not guilty by reason of insanity and have her walk out of the courtroom," Broussard said.

McDaniel said he didn't want Ward's fate determined by a jury either.

"There are no winners in this situation," said McDaniel. "But this is a good resolution for the state and it's a good resolution for my client, her family and the community."

McDaniel said the plea agreement stemmed from prosecutors agreeing last month not to seek the death penalty against Ward.

Reckless murder carries the same punishment as murder, Broussard said. Ward agreed to plead guilty to recklessly causing the death of her children because she failed to seek medical attention for them, he said. It was a crime of inaction.

"The power had been cut off, the kids were sick, weak and nonresponsive," Broussard said. "She told the investigators she tried to feed them, but they would not eat."

Broussard said that, while Ward's children were starving to death, she was sending money to religious organizations and asking them to pray for her children.

It was agreed that Ward was mentally competent to stand trial now. The question was her mental state at the time of the children's deaths.

Ward will be moved to Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka within 30 days, said Chief Deputy Chris Stephens of the Madison County Sheriff's Department.

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Information from: The Huntsville Times, http://www.al.com/hsvtimes/hsv.html

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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