Woman gets 40 years in 2-year-old grandson’s beating death

A Harvey woman has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after she admitted to beating her 2-year-old grandson to death.

Janella Lewis, 42, was sentenced last Thursday after she pleaded guilty to cruelty to a juvenile and manslaughter, according to court records. She was set to go to trial this week on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of Titus Gooseberry, but reached a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a mandatory life sentence.

Titus died Jan. 14, 2011, while in Lewis’ care. An autopsy found he suffered massive trauma to his liver.

Lewis was arrested the following day, after Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office officials said she admitted to detectives that she burned the boy with a heated fork and hit him with a belt and wooden spoon. Her reason: he was misbehaving while she watched him.

That admission came after detectives found inconsistencies in Lewis’ story about how the boy was injured.

She first told investigators she did not know how Titus got hurt, only that he went to bed and later woke up vomiting and having difficulty breathing. Lewis later said the boy had suffered injuries in a car crash in Texas while with his mother, who left Titus and his 3-year-old brother in her care on Jan. 10.

When detectives questioned Lewis about the inconsistencies, she reportedly said that Titus fell down the stairs while she took out the trash. As she tried to break the boy’s fall she stepped on his back, authorities said.

She only admitted to beating the boy after detectives confronted her with details about his injuries.

Titus suffered an injury to his liver when Lewis stepped on him, an action that proved fatal.

Lewis had previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, according to court records. But she was found to be mentally competent to stand trial.

While cruelty to a juvenile carries a 10-year maximum prison term and manslaughter carries a 40-year maximum, 24th Judicial District Court Judge Donnie Rowan ordered the sentences to run concurrently, according to court records.