Lovejoy mother found guilty of starving twin sons

Tessa Zelek, 25

A Lovejoy mother was found guilty Thursday of nearly starving her twin sons to death when they were 13 months old.

Tessa Zelek, 25, sobbed as she saw her sons for the first time in two years when they ran laughing and shouting into the courtroom. The boys, now 3-years-old, passed Zelek but went by without recognizing her.

The jury deliberated for just two hours before finding her guilty on all 10 felony counts including cruelty to children, contributing to the deprivation of a minor and forgery. She faces up to 70 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 16.

Zelek and the boys' father, James McCart, have been jailed since their 2007 arrests.

The boys' aunt, Lisa Scroggins, said the verdict will help ensure that the children are protected. Scroggins shares custody of the children with their paternal grandmother. "We knew a lot of wrong happened and we just wanted to keep the children safe, healthy and happy," she said.

McCart testified earlier Thursday that he and Zelek ignored the babies' cries of hunger while spending days in bed taking drugs.

Doctors testified Wednesday that the boys were so malnourished that their brains had shrunk and they could barely move. They said the children had no teeth and their skin was hanging from their bodies.

Prosecutors said the babies had weighed nine pounds each, 20 to 30 pounds under weight, when the couple was arrested two years ago.

"Doctors said these kids were in a worse state than kids in a third world country," Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Anece Baxter White said in her closing statement. "These children were getting nothing."

Zelek blames the doctor, saying the twins' pediatrician did not tell her what and when to feed the children. "It's bad advice, equaling bad results," defense attorney Marc Pilgrim told jurors. "Unfortunately, Tessa trusted the doctor."

McCart, who is awaiting trial, also faced up to 70 years. But he has opted to take a plea, which would carry a 15-year sentence, prosecutors said.

The boys' maternal grandmother, Christiann Zelek is charged with not reporting the child abuse to police. Her trial is scheduled for later this month.