They sat through 5 days of testimony, saw more than 100 pictures of the crime scene and horrific injuries Terry Sturgis inflicted on three of his children. A day after a jury of his peers found Terry Sturgis guilty of murdering his 10-year-old son and abusing his 9 and 14-year-old boys, some of those jurors reflected on how the trial impacted them.
WSBT spoke with three jurors in person and several others on the phone. All agreed listening to Sturgis’ sons take the stand against their father was the most difficult part of the trial.
“Because they were able to stand there like little men and tell what happened to them, that made me feel like 'I'm here for a purpose. If they can do that, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,’” said Ron Nicks, juror #7.
The boys testified last Friday, the second day of testimony.
“After that testimony with the children, things changed,” said juror #9, who asked not to be identified. “And [the jurors] were very, very quiet, and I think that when the little one came into the courtroom, that was just gut-wrenching.”
Jurors also said graphic pictures presented as evidence were tough to see.
“I wanted to hurt him. I did, especially when I saw the pictures of not only Tramelle, but the rest of the children,” said Kelley Burks, juror #4. It was heart wrenching.
But several jurors said the toughest parts of the trial are what ultimately helped them reach their verdict – guilty on all 14 counts.
“Everything that was testified was backed up by the evidence,” said juror # 9.
“We all set everything else aside and said, ‘It's black and white now. This is something he shouldn't have done,’” recounted Nicks. “I’m sorry you got five kids, sorry you’re a single parent, but that’s not going to do it [for me]. You should have gotten help, you had it there and you didn’t.”
“How can a loving father do that to his children? That just kept going through my mind,” said Burks.
Sturgis didn’t show much emotion during most of his trial, but he appeared to become very agitated when Tramelle's second grade teacher and other staff members from Madison Primary testified about a day Sturgis came into the school and threatened them in 2010. Several jurors said that reaction from Sturgis in the courtroom showed them he had a mean streak.
Terry Sturgis is scheduled to be sentenced June 21, within days of the scheduled start date for his mother, Dellia Castile's, trial. She faces charges that she knew about the abuse and didn't do anything to stop it.
Immediately after the judge read the guilty verdicts Thursday, she called all 12 jurors and the 2 alternates into her chambers, thanked them for their service and had them meet with family counselor Mary Roemer to talk about what they saw in the courtroom and how that might affect them in the future.
“It’s different than going to the movies. It’s different than reading about it and reading about trauma in the paper,” Roemer said. “When you see it up close, when you're involved, knowing you are going to be making a decision when the responsibility is going to be resting on your shoulders.”
There’s also a possibility of jurors suffering consequences of the graphic content they experienced, she added.
“I tried to warn them of that, not to predict, that they are going to suffer from depression, irritability, anxiety, trouble with relationships, those are all possibilities and we talked about all those possibilities.”
Roemer said she gave jurors information about where they can get help, should they need it. The Family & Children's Center has agreed to provide free counseling for all the jurors involved in the trial, Roemer said.