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Parents sentenced in mauling of child

Heather R. Frango and James Jonathan Martin Jr. will each spend three years in prison for the October 2005 dog mauling that killed their toddler son.

After hearing more than two hours of oftentimes emotional testimony, Suffolk Circuit Court Judge Carl Eason on Monday sentenced Frango, 29, and Martin, 25, to seven years each for the involuntary manslaughter of 2-year-old Jonathon Martin. They also received five years each for felony child neglect charges.

Eason suspended nine years of their 12-year sentences and ordered them to pay $5,500 in retribution.

“Bad parenting became criminal … and resulted in the death of your son,” said Eason. “There was negligence on both your parts in caring for your son.”

He also sentenced Martin to an additional six months for a probation violation.

Police were called to the couple’s Whaleyville Boulevard home on Oct. 3, after Jonathon, left unsupervised, went into a downstairs bedroom where two pit bull mixes and a litter of puppies were being kept, according to court records. One or both of the adult dogs attacked the toddler, who was wearing a diaper and blood-stained shirt when emergency workers arrived, according to previous court testimony.

The child died later that day at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Medical experts have ruled that the child died of internal bleeding caused by more than 100 punctures and abrasions from the dogs’ biting and clawing, according to court testimony.

Martin and Frango admitted to using drugs the night before their son was killed, Marie Walls, deputy Commonwealth’s attorney said.

Police found a bong – a pipe commonly used to smoke marijuana – on the nightstand in the master bedroom.

“I’m not a bad mom.” said Frango, sobbing moments before Eason handed down his decision. “I did not have a lot of control over my life at that time.”

Martin also broke into tears before being sentenced, saying he would “give his own life for my son right now.”

Prosecutors Susan Walton and Walls asked for sentences of at least five years, saying the couple was negligent for letting dogs they knew to be dangerous be kept in the house that night.

Defense attorneys asked for leniency, saying the toddler’s death was accidental.

“This was a tragic accident that carries criminal consequences” said Frango’s attorney Barrett Richardson. “They’re not bad people. They are two stupid kids who did something stupid and they are paying for it every single day.

“No punishment the court could impose could be worse. The choice she (Frango) made on Oct. 3, 2005 is going to haunt her for the rest of her life.”

allison.williams@suffolknewsherald.com