Delaware judge cites 'evil' and 'extreme cruelty' in sentencing couple for torturing their sons

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware woman who was convicted of torturing her two stepsons with the knowledge and help of their father was sentenced Thursday to 106 years in prison by a judge who called the abuse “the most extensive and persistent evil” he has ever seen.

Mary Vinson, 46, pleaded guilty last year to 30 felony counts including kidnapping, child abuse, strangulation and reckless endangering. She had faced a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum of 444 years.

“I didn’t want to hurt them,” Vinson said before sentencing, taking issue with the litany of horrors outlined by prosecutor Erik Towne and with the state’s suggestion that she was “a monster.”

“It didn’t start out that way,” she said. “I loved those boys like they were my own.”

The boys’ father, Charles Vinson, 37, was also sentenced Thursday, to 49 years. He pleaded guilty to 12 felony counts and had faced a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 158 years.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clarke rejected defense requests to impose the minimum sentences, citing among other things the extreme cruelty of the crimes.

Video from surveillance cameras that monitored the large closet where the boys were kept naked and starving in horrific conditions did not tell the entire story of their suffering, the judge said.

“It will be impossible for them to forget the evil done to them,” said Clarke, who refused a prosecution request to show some of the video excerpts in court. “They will carry this with them for the rest of their lives.”

Defense attorney John Malik said Charles Vinson did not like conflict and felt manipulated by his wife: “He was in the middle between his wife and his kids, and admits that he failed his sons.”

The judge noted that, while Charles Vinson was not the primary offender, he enabled the abuse, facilitated it and sometimes participated.

Charle Vinson said he took full responsibility for his actions and accepted the consequences of his “poor decisions" regarding his sons.

“I failed them, and I feel ashamed of myself to be called a father,” Vinson said.

According to prosecutors, the boys were abused over a period of 20 months starting in early 2020. One was 9 to 10 years old at the time, while the other was abused between the ages of 11 and 13.

Both were hospitalized several times for severe malnutrition, with one requiring a hospital stay of almost a month. The Division of Family Services finally took custody of the boys in October 2021.

Authorities said the abuse included making the boys stand motionless for long periods of time, withholding food and water, force-feeding, and beating and strangling them. Prosecutor Kristin Dewalt said they were forced to wash themselves with the same water used to clean up their urine and feces.

“The torture Mrs. Vinson inflicted on these children is almost indescribable,” Towne said.

Mark Hudson, representing the Office of the Child Advocate, said the boys are in foster care and doing markedly better, but they are still dealing with issues. Attempts at placing them with permanent families have proven unsuccessful, he said, with potential adopting parents declining to move forward after learning of the boys’ history.