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Oak Ridge grandmother faces death penalty for granddaughter's murder

7:40 PM, Nov 21, 2012   |    comments
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Valerie Stenson

An Oak Ridge grandmother could face the death penalty for killing her granddaughter.

In March 2012, Valerie Stenson was charged with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse and neglect, in the death of her 2-year-old granddaughter, Manhattan Inman.  Inman was found dead in her home on Teller Village Lane in Oak Ridge on April 17, 2012.  No details about how she died have been released.

On Wednesday, District Attorney General Dave Clark announced he was going to seek the ultimate punishment for Stenson.

"I reached this decision considering all the factors and after careful review and reflection," said Clark in a press released.

In his court filing, Clark listed the aggravated circumstances of this crime that led to his decision:

(1) The murder was committed against a person less that twelve years of age and the defendant was eighteen years of age or older.

(2) The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse beyond that necessary to produce death.

(3) The murder was committed while defendant was engaged in committing, or was an accomplice in the commission of, or was attempting to commit, or was fleeing after committing or attempting to commit, any first degree murder, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, larceny, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child, aircraft piracy, or unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.

Captain Mike Uhler, with the Oak Ridge Police Department remembers how difficult it was to work the case.

"This case was horrific just because the nature of it," he said. He explained, any case involving a child death or abuse is difficult for officers.

"Most of our young guys have children. I have grown children, now I have grandchildren. Anytime there's a child involved... your heart goes into it."

Kyra Griffin lives in the same Oak Ridge apartment complex where authorities found the child's body in 2011.

"I just remember police everywhere, people going crazy -- 'What's going on?' People wouldn't expect that to happen here," she said. Griffin says she can't remember any other recent crime at the apartments.

"Nothing really happens around here, its quiet," she said. "Everything's so peaceful, everybody's so friendly... nobody seems suspect."

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