October 26, 2001 -
November 4, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial
On May 27, 2011, an anonymous caller to
the Department of Child Services in Southbend Indiana, would spend 20
minutes giving details
of the abuse that several children were suffering at the hands of one
man, their father:
"Please, go tonight.
Please go. I'm not just saying this to be saying this. Please go.
to be done. If they go
there right now, they'll see how them kids is beat if they go there
right now because
I don't want it to get
on the news and the boy died and then everybody come forward and they
Well, why nobody came
forward from before"
The call would not be the first time someone had tried to help these
children. A teacher at Tramelle's school, Brynne Scalon, sent him to
the school nurse in February of 2010 with an arm injury. Tramelle told
the nurse that his father had hit him with a stick and the nurse,
Patricia Wallis, called DCS. A social worker was sent to the home to do
a check up and his father, Terry Sturgis, told the worker that Tramelle
had been hurt while playing and that things were going find in the
home. Terry went to the school next day to tell them that he didn't
appreciate Tramelle's teacher messing with his family and his life and
that he takes care of his family and nobody else has a right to
was a student every teacher would want in their class. He always had a
on his face, he absolutely loved being at
school. He was a loving, caring, hard worker.
He was a leader in the
In November of 2011, a call went out to the police who found Tramelle,
unresponsive in the living room of his home at around 3:50 a.m.
Sturgis told police he had found his son at the bottom of the basement
steps and that his son was not moving, also stating the had not harmed
his son at all. Tramelle was transported to the hospital where it was
said his body was cool to the touch and he was dead. Tramelle's body
had bruises and burn marks, a broken leg, a broken arm, welts, burns
and bruises all over his body. Tramelle's brother stated that they had
been beaten by their father throughout the night and that their father
had used duct tape to restrain them while beating them with a stick.
Terry Sturgis was arrested and charged with battery as well as murder,
with another battery charge for injuring his 14 year old son.
"It is absolutely the
most horrendous crime that I've seen. Seeing the photos, seeing this
is absolutely appalling. If this was a third word country and this
happened, this father who did
this would already be dead. If this doesn't cry out to the community to
step forward and when
you see something, any kind of abuse, err on the side of caution, don't
you know, I don't want
to get involved, they may not be right, yet it out, tell somebody, I
can't express to you strongly
enough how horrible this is"
Commander Tim Corbett -
Seems the anonymous caller was
correct. After the call and the nurses complaint, nothing was done. How
much more can a community do to protect children from their parents and
those in charge who are NOT
willing to listen and help them? Eight other children were removed from
the home and taken into custody by the Department of Child Services.
Terry eventually admitted that he had been the one to kill his son
after using a club and a belt on him. Delia Castille, Terry's mother
claimed that even though Terry and his children lived in the basement
of her home, she had never witnessed any abuse, that turned out to be a
lie. Delia was arrested and charged with three counts of neglect, which
is a B class felony. Delia suddenly remembered that on at least
ten different occasions, she heard her son say that he was going to
"whoop" the kids and even admitted that she would give money to her son
or provide him with other things in order to get him to stop beating on
these children. One of Tramelle's siblings stated that Delia knew that
her son had burned the children with torches made out of roach spray
and his lighter and would then put cocoa butter on the burns. Children
in the home were burned with an iron on their stomachs and legs and at
one point a screwdriver was heated up and used to burn Tramelle's torso
and genitals, after inspecting Tramelle's body and that of his
siblings, it was confirmed that there were old and new burn marks.
A forensic interviewer was told by another sibling that there was a
time when Delia yelled at her son to stop or he was going to kill the
children at which point Terry yelled that the children were going to
kill him by making him hurt them. There is no record of Delia ever
turning her son in for child abuse.
With almost 800 pictures taken, there was
no lack of visual evidence for the jury to study. Jury members had
different reactions as they viewed pictures in court, a few cried and
one jury member looked away. The pictures shown in court revealed that
new and old bruising and burned skin on Tramelle's body as well as the
blood in the basement where his father had beaten him to death.
Prosecuting Attorney Joel Gabrielse told the jury that Tramelle's 14
year old brother had stolen some pencils from his art class and call
was made to his home about it:
of the call home to school, Terry Sturgis took the wooden club and
said, "Me and my stick,
gonna have some fun"
Terry started to beat his 14 year old son and when he was done, he
started to beat on Tramelle. Police entered the home and were shocked
by what they saw:
I went to give chest compressions, I ripped open Tramelle's shirt and
there were burn marks
his whole stomach and chest area. He was cold"
Officer - Andrew Witt
never seen anything like that"
Technician - Grant Baker
Defense Attorney, Jeff Killel said that his client was not aware that
beating Tramelle with the stick could cause him to die. Terry claimed
that Tramelle fell down the stairs and choked on his own vomit,
blocking his airway and causing him to die.
Tremble's mother was in the courtroom when pictures of her son were
shown to the jury. During the testimony of a Homicide Detective,
Tiffany Vera Townsend, also saw pictures of her eight and 14 year old
sons and the injuries they had suffered at the hands of their father.
Terry showed no emotions as pictures were shown, in fact he chose not
to look at the pictures on the screen in the courtroom, though he had
seen them already outside the courtroom.
Where was Tiffany when all of this was happening to her children? She
was living with her family:
"The decision that
Terry and I made to have our kids move to South Bend was mutual. When I
Terry, I moved back
with my family in Illinois. I still worked in the area, I saw my kids
every day until
they moved to South
Bend. When they moved to Southbend, it became harder for me to see them
but I never lost
custody of them"
Tiffany claimed that she planned to move to South Bend to be near her
children, but when she talked to Terry about it, he started to
blackmail her because she had been convicted of check fraud and never
completed her probation and there was a warrant out for her arrest:
"The only reason I
hadn't turned myself in with the warrant arrest was because I was
leave my kids, I was
afraid not to see them. But he definitely used it as power to try to
kids from me although,
as I stated before, he never had more custody than I, legally"
What does that even mean? Who cares who had "custody" of the children?
What matters is that you hid from the police to protect yourself, you
weren't seeing your children anyway, by your own admission, because
they lived too far away. You should have turned yourself in from the
start and maybe your son would still be alive.
Tiffany did finally turn herself in and she spent four and a half
months doing work release while her five children stayed with the
monster that was their father. Tiffany only had communication through
letters and phone calls:
"Even then I didn't
think that was the best decision, because they weren't with me. But I
I trusted his mom. I
trusted his family members. That was a decision that I needed ot make
moment. I want everyone
to know that I was never, not there. I want everyone to know that I was
fooled, lied to and betrayed.
That my kids love me and that if there was anything that would have
been said or done differently, I
would have done it"
Another lie, Tiffany. You could have turned yourself in sooner, you
chose to keep yourself free, while your children were serving a
sentence they would never forget and Tramelle was sentenced to death so
that YOU could stay out of
In June of 2012, Terry Sturgis, who was 36 at the time, was sentenced
to 140 years in prison with the Judge saying that even if he got good
time credit, he would be 104 years old before he would ever get out.
Kimberly Townsend, Tramelle's aunt, was in court that day:
"There's no justice,
there is no justice for what happened to my nephew. He had all of my
fooled, he hd his
friends fooled, he had his family fooled, we thought for a long time
Terry was a good father"
Terry's son said in court that he was embarrassed to go to school with
bruises and have ot make up excuses for what had happened adding that
he had a second chance at life and he wasn't afraid any more. Kimberly
also stated about her nephews:
"All of them are heroes
because they came out and finally spoke up and said stuff that they
weren't telling us and
they finally came out and had the courage to speak up on their behalf
and I think that was, I
know that was because of Tramelle giving them that strength and
courage to speak up. If
it's going on in your home, it's happening somewhere, speak up,
tell somebody, tell
somebody and as much as we loved him and hugged him and could give
him all the support, he
was still too afraid to tell us what was happening"
In court, several people wore T-shirts in memory of Tramelle, one was a
reproduction of a painting Tramelle had done, while some shirts simply
read "Stop Child Abuse". Tiffany spoke about how she had picked up
Tramelle's last report card
and his death certificate in the say say and she said to Terry:
"May God have mercy on
you, because I never will"
Terry was given time in court to make an apology, instead, he started
making excuses claiming he had been drinking and using drugs that day.
Terry's statement was cut short when the Judge stated that the abuse
had been going on long before that day adding that what was done was
done with brutality on a regular basis and the Terry had enjoyed doing
what he had done to his sons.
When it was her turn to face the courts,
Delia was crying when she said she was sorry, to her grandson, adding
that she didn't know about the violence that he and his siblings had
been going through. Unlike most Grandmothers, she had lied at first,
about knowing there had been abuse going on, then admitted that she may
have heard her son say he was going to "woop" the children, but in the
end, she decided to lie to someone who already KNEW the truth, her
grandson. Delia didn't lift a finger to help her suffering
grandchildren and then tried to make it okay by apologizing and adding
Just a few minutes minutes after she had spoken, her 15 year old
grandson took the stand to say that Delia knew and should have notified
"I had to suffer and my
grandma let it go on an and chose my father over the grandchildren. It
was a crisis
situation with my
brothers and I had to keep it to myself. I have empathy for some thing.
She didn't abuse
me but she should still
be held accountable"
This forgiving 15 year old thought that home detention was what his
grandmother should get to pay for what she allowed to happen to him and
his siblings. Luckily, St. Joseph County Superior Judge, Jane
Woodward-Miller realized that was not punishment enough and after a
five day trial in which the jury found her guilty, sentenced her to two
ten year terms to run consecutively:
"I don't know if there
has been a case that has broken the heart of a community like this
case. There was
multiple years of pain
and harm. These injuries reflect a brutality that is beyond our
were involved in the
beatings. It's not just that you knew what was happening, you predicted
one of the
children would die at
LaVaunn Sturgis, age 10, of South Bend, Indiana passed away on Friday,
November 4, 2011. He is the cherished son of Tiffany Townsend and is
survived by many loving family members and friends.
Family and friends will
gather to celebrate Tremble's life on Monday, November 14, 2011 at
Castle Hill Funeral Home: 248 155th Place, Calumet City, Illinois with
a visitation and funeral service from 10:00 a.m. until 12
noon followed by interment services at Beverly Cemetery.
He will be missed forever
by all those whose life he touched.
BEND - Jesus loves children so much that he decided to carry
His arms Tramelle LaVaunn Sturgis on his 10th birthday, October 26,
was born October 26, 2001, in Gary, Indiana, to Tiffany Vera Townsend
and Terry Sturgis. Coming from Gary, IN, he moved to South Bend. He was
a 4th grade student at Madison Primary Center. He loved art, math and
reading. He also loved Dragon Ball Z, drawing, playing video games,
eating bananas, riding his bike, telling jokes, and helping his little
brothers and sisters with their homework. Tramelle's memory will be
cherished in the hearts of many South Bend Community residents.
include his mother, Tiffany Townsend; father, Terry Sturgis; his
sister, Takiyah Townsend; three brothers, Terry Sturgis Jr., Terrance
Sturgis and Terrion Sturgis; maternal grandmother, Regina Townsend;
paternal grandmother, Deollia Castile; maternal great-grandparents,
Robert & Dolores Townsend; along with a host of aunts, uncles,
cousins, other relatives and friends.
page was created on February 28, 2014
occurred in the
state of Indiana
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