A babysitter captured on a secret video camera abusing the infant triplets under her care was sentenced Friday to four years in prison followed by 10 years probation that will include mental health treatment.
The video camera, installed by the parents because they didn't think that Carolyn Marie Easton, 66, was giving the children enough "tummy time," instead revealed the woman slinging the babies around by one arm, slapping them in the face, flinging them onto the sofa and jamming bottles into their mouths.
State District Judge Scott Wisch, who described himself as a "baby magnet" because of his ability to soothe crying children, said the video is "bizarre" and "offensive."
"It's like something from The Twilight Zone," Wisch said during sentencing. "It's like you were carrying around sacks of potatoes instead of babies."
The parents, who asked not to be identified to protect the identity of the children, said they wanted the woman they knew as "Carrie" to spend more time in prison. Because Easton has already served more than 13 months in jail awaiting trial, she will enter the state prison system already eligible for parole.
The children, who were about 5 1/2 months old at the time after being born prematurely, suffered no permanent injuries.
"At least we get to go home and give our babies kisses and know that God and his angels were watching out for them," the mother told the Star-Telegram after the sentencing.
Easton, of Watauga, had pleaded guilty to three counts of causing bodily injury to a child. Defense attorney Edwin Youngblood had urged the court to consider probation, saying Easton may suffer from mental illness or early onset Alzheimer's disease.
Prosecutor Eric Nickols, in the district attorney's crimes against children unit, had asked the judge for the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
"She betrayed this family by abusing their kids," Nickols said. "It's an easy answer to say she must be mentally ill. But she only does this when she thinks no one's watching."
The mother testified that she and her husband had noticed flat spots on the children's heads and had decided they were not spending enough time on their stomachs, as they'd requested. So they decided to install a "Nannycam," which is hidden in an acting smoke detector.
The first day the camera operated the camera captured the abuse. The mother testified that Easton seemed particularly abusive to the littlest triplet, who was weaker than the others.
"For some reason, she was picked on, and she was so tiny," the mother told the judge tearfully. She showed the judge a tiny pink outfit that the child had worn.
The mother said Easton was a neighbor to one of the triplets' grandmothers, and that they did everything possible to screen her before hiring them to watch the babies. They checked references, did a background check and spent several weeks with her in the house before leaving her alone with the children.
The parents said they would urge other parents to install a Nannycam even if they have no reason to suspect problems.
"Maybe we can help somebody else," the mother said.
Fort Worth police investigator Dani Paine testified that Easton tried to blame the maternal grandmother for mishandling the children before learning that a video had captured her actions. Even then, she accused the parents of being too hard on her by being "perfectionists."
Wisch told Easton that it was her efforts to blame others rather than accept responsibility for her actions that convinced him to give her prison time.
"There is a price for crime," Wisch told Easton. "That's the part that is morally reprehensible. That's what deserves a penitentiary sentence."
Wisch said he hoped Easton does not have Alzheimer's but urged her to seek mental health treatment.
"There's something wrong and I don't know what it is," he said. "If you're evil, I will see you again."
Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084