Man sentenced for drowning his two young children in bathtub

DETROIT (AP) -- A 27-year-old Allen Park man told relatives that he was not guilty of the bathtub drowning of his two young children just before a judge sentenced him to life in prison for one of the deaths and up to 60 years for the other.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vera Massey Jones sentenced Steven Nicholson last Friday.

Nicholson was convicted in April of first-degree murder in the death of 15-month-old Ella Stafford and second-degree murder in the death of 13-month-old Johnathan Sanderlin.

He received life in prison without parole for the girl's slaying.

"Don't judge me wrongly for charges I'm not guilty of," Nicholson read Friday from a statement in court. "Understand my pain and my current situation. I don't want pity, only understanding of the real proof."

Nicholson had said the children turned on the water and got into the tub in his Allen Park apartment, southwest of Detroit, while he was asleep. Their bodies were found Oct. 19 after he made a middle-of-the-night call to 911.

But two medical examiners said their bodies were scalded after being drowned. One medical examiner had said it was possible but unlikely that the children could have turned on the water and entered the bathtub.

Jones had told Nicholson when she delivered her verdict in April that the boy's drowning may have been an accident, but his daughter was intentionally slain to cover up the boy's death.

A prosecutor called their deaths "torture."

The children had different mothers. Nicholson had custody of Johnathan and took care of Ella.

"I have only seen him cry fake tears for Ella and Johnathan. Now, it's his turn to suffer," Windy Moritz, Ella's grandmother, said in her court statement just before last Friday's sentencing.

Published: Tue, May 17, 2011