Before being sentenced to life in prison Tuesday, Andre Hampton, struggling to hold back tears, apologized for beating his 23-month-old son to death in November 2008.
Im sorry for my actions. Sorry for the death of my son, he told the judge. If I could do anything to bring him back, I would.
There are no words to describe how sorry I am. Theres nothing I can say or do to show you how much I did love my son. He was the best son I ever had.
As Hampton spoke, many of the jurors cried and wiped tears from their eyes.
Hampton thanked his attorneys. He even thanked prosecutors who he said had shown that they cared for my son.
The Mecklenburg jury of seven men and five women deliberated about 16 hours over four days before recommending that Hampton, 27, spend the rest of his life behind bars rather than be put to death for the murder of Ellijah Burger.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, which is rare in cases of parents accused of killing their children.
Hampton confessed during a videotaped interview to beating Ellijah with a toothbrush, a hairbrush and a belt. His son, he told the detective, wouldnt eat his soup. He told jurors during the trial that he loved his son and didnt intend to kill him.
Superior Court Judge Forrest Bridges, before imposing Hamptons punishment, said the jurors had shown compassion and respect for their fellow man.
Ellijah Burger did not have to die and should not have died, the judge said.
Bridges pointed out that Ellijah died because of a notion that he is my kid he will do what I say.
People are not property, Bridges said. Children are not the property of their parents. Women are not the property of their husbands or boyfriends. None of us have the right to abuse others.
This child was a precious human being. He deserved a better fate.
After her sons sentencing, April Gadson sat on a bench outside the courtroom. Tears steamed down her cheeks and fell down onto her chest.
I am relieved that the jury saw fit to save my sons life. I am very thankful, Gadson told the Observer in an email. I tried to raise my children in a way that they would not have had a fate such as this.
But God is always in control. We loved Ellijah and will go forth as a family to make sure that we as well as other people will be educated to break the cycle of abuse.
Hampton was convicted two weeks ago of first-degree murder in the death of Ellijah.
Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Bill Stetzer said he and Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting were proud to be able to stand up and speak for Ellijah Burger these past five weeks.
No child should ever suffer as he did, Stetzer told the Observer. April is child abuse awareness month, and maybe this trial will raise awareness just a little.
The jury in a criminal case is the voice of the community. This jury convicted Andre Hampton of murdering and torturing a little boy to death. ... I pray none of us ever sees anything like this again.
Stetzer had urged jurors during his closing arguments to sentence Hampton to death.
Ellijah did not have a lawyer. He didnt have a judge and a jury. He just had an execution, the prosecutor told jurors. If this case is not deserving of the harshest penalty, none is.
Put this man on death row. Thats what this crime warrants.
Defense lawyer Norman Butler asked jurors to spare Hamptons life.
Is his life not worth something? Butler asked. Im pleading for you not to kill Andre Hampton.
Today you have an opportunity to save a life. What good is killing him?
Following Tuesdays sentencing, Butler told the Observer: Were very grateful to the jury for sparing Mr. Hamptons life in this very devastating and tragic death of his son.