Stepmother sentenced to life in prison for torturing, starving 11-year-old stepson to death

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HERNANDO, Miss. -- A woman received a life sentence for murdering her 11-year-old stepson.

A jury sentenced Amanda Raines after she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the torturing and starving death of Tyler Raines.

Tyler's father, Tommy, also pleaded guilty to the same charge.

WREG spoke with the family of Tyler's biological mother, Ashley Durfee, after the emotional three-day sentencing phase came to an end.

"Tyler was my grandson," Deborah Berry said, with tears in her eyes. "He was beautiful. He had big, brown eyes and coal-black hair, and he had a smile from ear to ear."

That is how family is choosing to remember little Tyler.

But when police found the boy's body last year, he weighed only 56 pounds and was covered in bruises and cigarette burns.

Family say he looked worse than a concentration camp prisoner, and he would try sneaking a younger sibling's baby formula, because he wasn't allowed to eat.

"He was starving to death," his aunt, Becky Gaines, told WREG. "Hiding bottles under his mattress, that was because he was hungry."

Amanda admitted to police she kept Tyler tied up in a bathroom, withheld food and whipped him with a belt.

Ashley Durfee's family said Tommy and Amanda refused to let them or Ashley see Tyler and moved frequently, so he could not be found.

"They kept Tyler away from us," Berry said. "For a year and a half, we didn't see him."

Tyler had not been to school in two years. Amanda told police she home-schooled him, but they said that was a lie.

He also missed 43 doctor's appointments over a two-year period.

Berry said what breaks her heart is she or any of his mother's family would have gladly taken him.

"He had a family," she said. "He had a family that loved him."

Amanda Raines cried in court and apologized.

Tyler's family said no words can undo the horror he endured, but they will continue to carry his memory in their hearts.

"Tyler wanted to be held all the time. Now, looking back, it makes me cry when I think why," Gaines said, her voice breaking. "I should have held him more."

"He will always be known as our little Superman, and right now, he's God's angel," Berry said.

A sentencing date for Tommy Raines has not been set yet. Like Amanda, he faces 20 years to life in prison.

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