WDAY.com

WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published May 13, 2011, 08:08 PM

Michigan Father Gets Life in Prison for Drowning His Toddlers

Steven Nicholson's voice cracked with emotion as he addressed the court minutes before he was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday for drowning his two toddlers.

By: Melanie D. Scott, Detroit Free Press (MCT)

DETROIT — Steven Nicholson's voice cracked with emotion as he addressed the court minutes before he was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday for drowning his two toddlers.

"I don't want pity, only understanding of the real truth," said Nicholson, who maintains that he did not kill his children. "I can never take this accident back, but I will make the best of this."

The 27-year-old Allen Park, Mich., father was convicted last month of first-degree murder, felony murder and first-degree child abuse in the death of his 15-month-old daughter, Ella Stafford. He was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his 13-month-old son, Johnathan Sanderlin.

Nicholson was sentenced by Wayne County Circuit Judge Vera Massey Jones to life in prison without parole on the first-degree murder charge and one to 15 years in prison for first-degree child abuse in the death of Ella. He was sentenced to 315 months to 60 years on the second-degree murder charge in the death of Johnathan.

Allen Park police testified during the trial that they found Nicholson sitting on the floor of his bedroom in the Valley Springs Apartments complex with the toddlers lying side-by-side on their backs after entering his apartment after 2 a.m. on Oct. 19, just minutes after Nicholson called 911.

Wayne County Medical Examiner chief pathologist Dr. Carl Schmidt testified during the trial that the children's deaths were ruled homicides because their injuries were too extensive to be accidental. Schmidt also testified that he believed the children were drowned before they were scalded with hot water.

Windy Moritz , Ella's grandmother, told the court she had been waiting for Nicholson's sentencing for almost seven months.

"He left us with tears and sorrow," Moritz said. "The question we will always ask is why?"

Tayler Stafford , Ella's mother, and Sarah McGee , Johnathan's mother, did not attend the sentencing.

Nicholson's family said they believe the children's deaths were accidental and are seeking a new attorney who would be willing to appeal the case free of charge.

"We are not accepting this verdict, and we are going to fight for him," said Sandra Kirby, Nicholson's aunt. "A lot of the evidence was not introduced in the case, and we believe there were some things that were done wrong."

___

(c) 2011, Detroit Free Press.

Visit the Freep, the World Wide Web site of the Detroit Free Press, at http://www.freep.com.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Tags: