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Mother Sentenced in Death of Baby

November 18, 2005|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

A South Los Angeles woman with a history of child abuse was sentenced Thursday to 60 years to life in prison for drowning her 3-month-old son in a washing machine, then setting fire to their home.

Latunge Nate Starks, 33, was sentenced to eight years in prison for a 1994 child abuse conviction. In that case, Starks used the burning head of a mop to ignite the diaper of her 8-month-old daughter, Tatiana. She also set fire to the pajamas of a neighbor boy.

In the new case, Starks in early January placed her son, Michael Kelvin Thompson, in a washing machine and turned it on, according to court documents. She then set the house on fire. Firefighters, responding to the blaze, found the infant's body inside the washing machine.

"People have to understand some people are just evil," said Deputy Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers. "She never cried once. She never said she was sorry."

The boy's godmother, Janice Dean, later told authorities that Starks had told her to be sure to kiss the baby because it would be the last time she saw him, court documents show.

Starks, an unemployed drug addict who began amassing a criminal history at age 15, had pleaded guilty to the Jan. 3 murder and the attempted murder of the child's grandmother, Althea Andrews, in the fire. Andrews, who shared her house with Starks and Starks' son, was not injured in the blaze.

"The defendant based upon her infliction of great bodily harm and the high degree of cruelty and viciousness of this incident has earned the right of maximum custody time at the state level," said a probation report filed with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Arthur Lew before sentencing.

The report recommended the term because Starks "has engaged in violent conduct which indicates a serious danger to society" and the infant was "particularly vulnerable."

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