A Cleburne mother accused of seriously injuring her son through unneeded surgeries and then trying to kill the 13-year-old boy by withholding food and nutrients from him has been found guilty of attempted murder by a Tarrant County jury.
Danita Tutt, 42, had been charged with three counts of injury to a child causing serious bodily injury and one count of attempted murder involving her oldest son, Colby Tutt.
On Friday, the jury found Tutt not guilty on the first two counts of injury to a child — related to two surgeries the boy had undergone — but guilty of causing him serious bodily injury and of attempted murder for withholding food and nutrients from him.
The bodily injury charge is a first degree felony and has a sentencing range of 5 years to life in prison. The attempted murder charge carries a 2 to 20 year sentence.
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Tutt is eligible for probation.
After the verdict was read, several relatives and family friends in the courtroom cried. Tutt’s husband, seated in the front row, put his head in his hands.
Serena Bair said she’s known Tutt for about eight years and called the guilty verdict “the saddest thing in the world.”
“Now you have two little boys getting separated from their mother. It’s so sad,” she said. “She is as innocent as the day is long.”
Bair said she worries about how Clint Tutt will care for the children if their mother is in jail.
“She is good people, good salt of the earth people. As is Clint. And those kids are awesome, loving kids. They don’t deserve this. It’s wrong.”
Jurors deliberated over a span of five days. At times they announced they were deadlocked on some of the counts but were encouraged to keep deliberating.
Prosecutors Dale Smith and Melinda Westmoreland had alleged that Tutt lied to doctors about her son’s symptoms, causing Colby Tutt to undergo unnecessary ileostomy and gastrostomy surgeries. They said she also injured Colby, then 13, and almost caused his death by witholding food and nutrients him and even bought his casket.
Defense attorneys Terri Moore and Mike Ware argued it wasn’t until Tutt made the decision to fire a hospice company with connections to Cook Children’s Medical Center, and take her son elsewhere, that child abuse allegations were hurled against her.
They argued the surgeries that Colby underwent were necessary and that Tutt had only bought the casket at the urging of the hospice company.
Child Protective Services removed Colby and his then 9-year-old brother from their Johnson County home in May 2016, after concerns were raised to the Texas agency that Tutt was lying about Colby’s medical condition, trying to starve the boy and had already bought him a casket.
Fort Worth police arrested Tutt in August 2016. She has been free on bond since then awaiting trial.
A settlement was later reached in the CPS case in which the state agency agreed to dismiss its petition seeking termination of Tutt’s parental rights under the agreement that Colby and his brother would remain in their maternal grandparents’ custody and be allowed unlimited, but supervised, visits with their mother.
Tutt’s trial included three weeks of testimony.
Earlier during the deliberations, Tutt got down on her knees in the gallery of the courtroom as she and some of her supporters bowed their heads in prayer.
After the verdicts were announced, she was taken into custody. The punishment phase of the trial will begin Monday.