A Banning couple who killed the woman's 2-year-old son and tried to claim it was an accident were sentenced Friday to a combined 41 years to life in prison.
Andrew Lee Payne, 24, and Davia Damanique James, 23, were convicted last month in the Nov. 11, 2011, death of her oldest child, Robert Voorhees.
The defendants had separate juries. Payne's convicted him of second- degree murder, assault on a child resulting in death, forging a prescription and possessing controlled substances. James was convicted of second-degree murder and child abuse.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz imposed a 26 years to life sentence on Payne for the charge of fatally assaulting a child and the drug counts. The judge suspended sentencing for the second-degree murder conviction because it was superseded by the more serious felony.
Schwartz imposed a 15 years to life term on James.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham described Robert Voorhees' death as "horrific," telling jurors that the child was hit repeatedly in the kidneys and suffered a " fractured spine, a collapsed lung, cerebral edema and a herniated brain."
The official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
According to Beecham, the youngster was left under Payne's supervision on Nov. 7, 2011, while James went to a doctor's appointment and ran errands for most of the day. By the time she came home that afternoon, her son appeared to be sleeping, the prosecutor said.
In fact, the boy was virtually comatose, unresponsive and slipping away. When paramedics were summoned to the single-story house on Hays St., they initially believed Robert was dead, Beecham said.
The child was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was declared brain dead on Nov. 11 and removed from life support.
Payne, a convicted drug user, severely beat the boy, and James, fully aware of what was going on, covered for him, according to testimony. Both defendants told investigators that Robert had fallen in the bathroom and struck his head, but pathologists said the extent and nature of the child's injuries could not be explained away as a mere fall.
The pair have had two children together. The last baby was born after James was jailed.