Cline was found guilty in September of first-degree murder in the
death of 2-year-old Lucas Alberts.
After approximately two hours
in the courtroom, Harris handed down his sentence of 30 years and
three years of supervised release. Because the charge is
first-degree murder, Cline will serve the entire sentence with no
chance for parole. At just over 40 years old now, Cline will be 70 when
he is released from prison.
Cline arrived at the courthouse in the custody of Logan County
Sheriff's Department officers. Coming in through the west side doors
of the rotunda in prison garb and shackled, he was taken to a
meeting room on the third floor, where he was joined by his
attorneys, James Elmore and Jeff Page.
When he was brought into the courtroom, his shackles had been
removed, a detail Harris pointed out at the beginning of the
Harris said the first order of business would be to proceed with
a motion from the defense for a new trial. On Sept. 30, just days
after Cline was found guilty, his attorneys submitted a request for
a new trial, arguing the jury had not been give proper instruction,
when they were denied the right to find Cline guilty of a lesser
charge: child endangerment.
In the courtroom Thursday afternoon, Elmore cited the State v.
LaGrone case as the basis for his claim, saying the courts
could have found Cline guilty of doing nothing to help the injured
Elmore said that because the jury had sought advice on lesser
charges, it was clear they were not entirely certain of the guilt of
Cline on murder charges. He argued that had they been given a
choice, they would probably have found Cline guilty of the lesser
However, because they did not have that option, and they felt he
was responsible for the child's death, even though it may not have
been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, they still had to find him
At the time of the trial, Harris had ruled on the request for a
lesser charge, saying the charge had to hold the same elements as
the greater charge, and in this case it did not. In the first-degree
murder charge, there was no mention of neglecting to seek medical
help for the child, but the lesser charge the defense was seeking
was based primarily on that neglect.
On Thursday afternoon, Assistant State's Attorney Jonathan Wright
said the court had ruled appropriately and that there was no basis
for a lesser charge.
Elmore argued that if there was no need for a lesser charge, why
then did the jury ask for advice in the matter?
When Harris ruled, he said that he had indeed looked at the
People v. LaGrone, and he had found the two cases dissimilar. In
the LaGrone case the murder charge included the same components as
the lesser charge, and the defense's request in the Cline case did
He ruled against a new trial.
Hearing moves on to pre-sentencing testimony
Prior to sentencing, Harris, the prosecution and the defense went
through the pre-sentencing investigation report, correcting minor
errors, then moved into testimony from friends and family of Lucas
Alberts, and testimony from a Department of Child and Family
Prior to the first speaker, Harris acknowledged he had in his
possession 48 letters from friends and family of Ty Cline, speaking
on Cline's behalf in the matter.
Wright began with victim impact statements from Lindsey Alberts,
sister-in-law of Jody Alberts and Lucas Alberts' aunt by
Alberts spoke with great emotion about the void that has been
left in the life of herself and her husband. She recounted that when
Lucas died, the couple was planning their wedding, and Lucas was to
be their ring bearer. She also remembered the things that made the
little boy laugh, the times he enjoyed with his grandparents on the
farm, and the songs he liked on the radio.
She also said there are things daily that remind her of Lucas:
for example, the songs she hears on the radio, such as "Big Green
Tractor" and "If I Die Young."
She added the loss of the child has shaken their faith in God,
and they have found it difficult to go to church, something they
were raised doing and had always been a big part of their lives.
Rodney Alberts, Lucas' grandfather, also spoke to the judge.
Accompanied by his wife Jill, he talked about the joy of being a
grandparent, the devastating pain of losing their first and only
grandchild, and the sorrow they now carry with them.
He said there was no doubt that Ty Cline murdered the little boy.
But he also said he wonders all the time what could have been done
differently, how this could have been prevented. He concluded by
saying he'd seen no remorse on the part of Ty Cline, and he felt the
man deserved a maximum sentence.
Lucas Alberts' mother, Jody Albert, was the last family member to
speak. In a very emotional speech to the judge she recounted the
love she felt for her son and the great loss she is now
suffering. She recounted all the things she would never get to do
with her son and punctuated it with the statement, "I get to go to
the cemetery." She finished by saying Cline would never feel the
pain she and her family is feeling.
After the Alberts family finished their statements, Wright called
to the stand Nancy Britten of DCFS. Britten was the investigator
appointed to the incident involving Lucas Alberts. Wright asked her
if she had looked for old incidents involving Ty Cline. She said
that she had, and she had found reports from 2006.
Prior to his relationship with Jody Alberts, Cline was married
with three children. According to Britten, in 2006 the Cline
family was investigated.
Through Wright's questioning, Britten recounted several incidents
when Cline had allegedly caused injury to one of his three children.
One incident involved bruising on the back of their oldest
daughter when she was an infant. Another incident included bruising
at the neck. Cline was also reported to have struck his middle
daughter on the head hard enough that she was knocked from the chair
she was sitting on, and on another occasion, kicked his son on his
behind hard enough the child fell down a set of stairs, taking his
older sister with him in the fall.
Britten also said there were reports of Cline having struck his
When Elmore questioned Britten, he asked if the children had been
removed from the Cline home as a result of the DCFS investigation.
They had not. He also asked if Britten had firsthand knowledge of
the incidents. She said she did not, as in 2006 there was another
investigator on the case, and that person is no longer with DCFS.
When Elmore was given an opportunity to call witnesses on behalf
of Cline, he called the ex-wife, Theresa Cline.
He asked Cline about her marriage and the length of it. The
Clines were married in 1998, separated in 2007 and divorced in
2008. Cline said the two had joint custody of the children, and Ty
Cline spent a great deal of time with his children. She explained
his involvement in their activities and how he helped with taking
care of them while she was working. She said Cline loved his
children, and his children loved him and were always happy to spend
time with him.
Asked about the DCFS report from 2006, Theresa Cline explained
she had been seeing a counselor because of the couple's marital
difficulties. There had been an occasion when she and Cline were
fighting and he knocked her against a couch and she hit her head.
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She said she told her counselor about that incident and also
recounted incidents involving the children, and the counselor was
compelled to report this to DCFS.
In regard to the infant with the bruising on the back, Cline said
her husband was one to pat the baby on the back. When he got nervous
he would pat faster but never intended to hurt the child. There had
been one occasion when she came home and felt the child was acting
differently as was her husband. She saw what she said was redness
and decided Cline had patted the child too hard. Cline said she
spoke to her mother about this, and her mother said perhaps Ty was
not used to babies and in the future should not be left alone to
care for the infant.
In regard to the child being knocked off the stool, Theresa Cline
said her husband and middle daughter were arguing over
something. The little girl, about 7 at the time, was sitting on a
bar stool. Ty Cline told her to stop talking back to him, but she
didn't stop, so "he smacked her upside the head and knocked her off
the bar stool."
Theresa Cline said her husband was concerned about the child
afterward and consoled her.
In the matter of the little boy being kicked down the stars,
Theresa Cline said it was a common practice of Cline to kick the
kids on the behind when they were getting out of hand. She said it
was meant as a warning they needed to behave and was never done hard
enough to hurt them. With Elmore guiding her through it, Theresa
Cline concluded the incident was, in his words, "a comedy of errors"
that resulted in both children falling to the bottom of the stairs.
Arguments for sentencing
When all the testimony was completed, Wright was the first to
make a recommendation for the length of term in Cline's sentencing.
He said the case was clearly murder and that it was the most
serious of crimes. He said it was clear and evident the cause of
death was blunt force trauma to the head, but in addition there was
clear evidence of additional bruising that, during the trial, Jody
Alberts and the day-care workers had testified had not been there
He recalled the blow to the head, the bruising on the neck and
the abdomen, along with internal hemorrhages in the abdomen area.
He said this was a case of a grown man against a 2-year-old child
who was defenseless.
He also drew attention to the testimony of Britten in regard to
bruising around the Cline daughter's neck, calling it eerily similar
to the bruising on Lucas Alberts.
Wright said a strong sentence was demanded in this case, not only
due to the nature of the crime and the death of a child, but also to
be used as a deterrent to others, to show that crimes against
children will be punished harshly.
The length of the sentence for a single count of first-degree
murder is a range between 20 and 60 years. Wright asked that Cline
be sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Ty Cline speaks for himself prior to sentencing.
In a very emotional state, Cline told the judge and the Alberts
family that he had no words that could express his sorrow to Jody
Alberts and the Alberts family.
He said: "I regret not recognizing
the extent of the injuries to Lucas and not taking him to the
hospital. I regret not going to the hospital with Jody.
"I accept the verdict but stand by my testimony that I did not
strike Lucas. I ask for forgiveness for my past mistakes and a
chance for redemption."
Cline concluded by saying he would accept whatever the judge
handed down. He then thanked his own family for their support.
When Elmore delivered his final statements, he said the incident
with Lucas Alberts was something that happened in a matter of only
one or two minutes. He said there was no premeditation, no
He said Ty Cline in an instant did a horrible thing, but it was
not intentional. He said, "Mr. Cline did not lie in the weeds
waiting to take someone's life."
Elmore also reiterated the testimony of Dr. Denton that the
bruises on Lucas were old, and he said the marks on Cline's
daughter's neck were a pinch.
Elmore said Cline was a good person who worked a regular job,
paid child support to his ex-wife, participated in his children's
lives. He said Cline was a contributor when many aren't and that he
hopes to one day redeem himself.
Elmore said Cline was not the worst of the worst and did not
deserve 50 years; he did not deserve to die in prison. He asked that
his client be sentenced in a range of 25 to 35 years.
Harris delivers his sentence
When the prosecution and defense were done, Harris prepared to
deliver his sentence.
He said first that this was a most difficult decision. He talked
about the families on both sides, saying they were good people, and
he knew they were all devastated by what had happened.
Harris said: "I can't begin to tell you how difficult this
is. This has been very emotional. I acknowledge the tremendous
loss suffered by Jody Alberts and her family. I acknowledge the
impact this has had on a fine family."
Harris also acknowledged the Cline family and said that his heart
goes out to them as well. He concluded, "Two families have been
He noted 48 letters of support from friends and family of Ty
Cline and said he had read each one of them and many of them more
In rendering his sentence Harris said he had to weigh the
severity of the crime, the nature of it and the rehabilitative
potential of Cline. He also had to look at the seriousness of the
offense and the age of the victim.
He said Cline otherwise had a law-abiding history with no violent
offenses, some traffic violations and a DUI in 1997. He said from
what he had heard during the trial and had read, it appeared that
these circumstances were not likely ones that would reoccur, meaning
he didn't believe Cline would repeat this type of crime.
He said the sentence he would render would be significant, but it
was neither the lesser nor the greater of what he could give.
He then said he sentenced Cline to serve 30 years in an Illinois
correctional facility, with three years of mandatory supervised
He also stated charges of first-degree murder carry a 100 percent
sentence, meaning Cline cannot be released early.
Harris also said the defense
had the right to appeal the sentence within 30 days.
Elmore indicated he plans to take the
Cline case to the appellate courts for appeal.
[By NILA SMITH]