DALLAS, TX (NBC) — Dallas police have arrested the father and stepmother of a 10-year-old boy who died of dehydration last month. Johnathan James died July 25 after he was found unresponsive in his home.
Police said Thursday that the boy's father and stepmother, Michael James and Tina Alberson, punished the 10-year-old by not allowing him to drink anything. The Dallas County Medical Examiner determined that Johnathan was deprived of water for a period of five days before he collapsed and died.
"He got to the point where couldn't function," Deputy Chief Craig Miller said. "He couldn't get up off the ground." Police said James and Alberson forced the 10-year-old to stand in one place for long periods of time without water in what investigators termed an "excessive form of time-out."
Investigators would not say what behavior the boy was being punished for. Johnathan's death was originally classified as an unexplained death until the medical examiner ruled it a homicide Thursday. Police had originally believed the boy's death was heat-related.
Police said at the time of Johnathan's death that his home had no central air-conditioning and was cooled by window units and fans. Neighbors said they thought Johnathan's death was heat-related and said they were shocked by the allegations.
"That's inconceivable to me," neighbor Cheryl Norwood said. "That's inconceivable to me. I can't understand why they wouldn't give him any water." "I'm really heartbroken," neighbor Lucy Salinas said. "I'm a schoolteacher, so I work with kids, you know, so I'm really heartbroken."
Child Protective Services placed two other children in the home with relatives after Johnathan's death. James and Alberson have been charged with injury to a child, a first-degree felony. If convicted, they would face up to 99 years in prison.