Ebony Espree Berry of Smyrna, Georgia was recently sentenced to 30 years in prison and 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 16-year-old daughter, Markea. The disabled teen suffered from both anorexia and bulimia and had reportedly written in her diary that she thought hunger was the way to salvation, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
While Berry didn’t withhold food from her oldest daughter, she was found at fault for not taking her child to the doctor to receive help. Berry was also initially charged with murder after the teen was found dead in the home and it was found that the mother waited an hour to call 911 after finding her child unresponsive in her room. According to WXIA 11, an NBC affiliate in Atlanta, when Markea died in June 2012, she weighed only 43 pounds. Berry has been in jail since June 15, 2012, taken in hours after her daughter was found dead.
According to the AJC, Berry’s family had been under investigation for years by Child Protective Services in Georgia, as well as Michigan. At the age of 14, Markea was spotted alone in a Walmart looking very sickly and undernourished. That case was closed.
Prosecutor Lindsay Garnder argued that had Berry sought help for her child, Markea would still be alive.
“…just because the victim had an eating disorder does not absolve this defendant from responsibility in this death. Had she gotten the victim the help she needed, there’s a chance Markea would be here today.”
But Rick Kimberly, Berry’s attorney, says that the 37-year-old mother had just become overwhelmed with the responsibilities of taking care of three other children, including a newborn.
“In Miss Berry’s instance, I think she got overwhelmed with three other kids and a newborn infant. We would wholeheartedly agree with the state that there was no intent to kill her daughter.”
Berry was able to get a plea deal, so she pled guilty to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, first-degree cruelty to children and second-degree cruelty to children, as opposed to the murder charge that was initially against her. On top of getting 30 years and probation, Berry will not be able to have any contact with children, including her own (they are currently living with relatives), and will have to undergo mental evaluations when she’s on probation. She will get credit for the time she has already served.
When speaking on her situation during sentencing, Berry apologized to the court and admitted that she is guilty. “I just want to apologize for everybody having to come out today for my situation and my circumstances involving my daughter.”
I understand that Berry’s behavior was extremely neglectful, but is it just me, or does a sentence of 30 years seem kind of harsh? When you consider the fact that there are people who gunned down teens and ran down people while driving recklessly walking free and/or getting much less time behind bars, it seems somewhat excessive. That’s just me though.
What do you think?