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Allains each to serve 25 years

Lori and Arthur "Tommy" Allain were convicted last month of starving one of their foster children.

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published April 7, 2006


[Times photos: Maurice Rivenbark]
Lori Allain signs "I love you" to her family on her way out of the courtroom Thursday morning.
Tiffany Staab, left appeals for her parents, Lori and Arthur Allain, as defense attorney Elliott Ambrose and her sister Kristen listen.

BROOKSVILLE - The Hernando County husband and wife who nearly starved a 10-year-old girl in their care to death were sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison and 20 years of probation.

Lori Allain, 49, and Arthur "Tommy" Allain, 48, were sentenced about two years after authorities removed the severely malnourished, 29-pound girl from their mobile home in a rural area north of Weeki Wachee. The Allains were arrested a month later and charged with child abuse and neglect.

The Allains skipped their original trial date in October and were on the loose until authorities rearrested them in New Jersey in January.

Their time on the lam only intensified interest in the case. A jury found them guilty last month.

Circuit Judge Jack Springstead asked the couple Thursday if they understood their sentences.

"Yes," said the normally talkative Lori Allain.

"Might as well be a death sentence," Tommy Allain mumbled.

The couple is scheduled to appear in the same courtroom this morning on charges of failing to appear in court last fall. A trial is expected early next month.

For the much-publicized child abuse case, though, this was the end.

"I knew he was going to get some time, but man," Elliott Ambrose, Tommy Allain's state-appointed attorney, said later. "That's a long time."

Lori Allain's state-appointed attorney was more matter-of-fact. "I'm not surprised that was the sentence that came down," Robert Christensen said.

The Allain family members who were in the courtroom declined comment.

"I'm done with the whole thing," said Kristen Staab, 23, one of their two grown daughters who live in Spring Hill. "I don't want to say anything. Thank you, though."

The case began in May 2004 when the girl's older brother, who wasn't being starved, ran away and told authorities about his sister. The Allains, who were long-term, state-approved caregivers for the girl and her brother, claimed the girl had an eating disorder that made her throw up.

The trial lasted three days last month. Any mitigating factors cited by the defense were no match for the state's growth charts and the ghastly before-and-after photos of the girl.

She weighed 30 pounds in 1999. She was 5.

She weighed 29 pounds in 2004. She was 10.

The girl's name is not being published because of the nature of the charges.

The only question heading into Thursday's hearing was the length of the Allains' sentence. During their time on the run, they talked to the St. Petersburg Times in a series of interviews and called Springstead "dirty" and said he was in a conspiracy against them with the State Attorney's Office and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. That prompted speculation that the judge would get his payback with a stiff sentence.

But an independent presentencing investigation by the state Department of Corrections offered a recommendation - 25 years in prison, 20 years of probation - and Springstead stuck to it.

"I followed the PSI straight down the line," Springstead said after the hearing.

The Allains' two daughters spoke before Springstead announced the sentences. The couple's four biological sons, ranging in age from 12 to 17, are in the custody of their daughter, Kristen Staab, but weren't there Thursday. "I want the kids to have the right to be able to grow up with their parents," Staab said.

The girl, prosecutor Sherry Byerly countered, "had the right to grow up healthy."

The girl weighs more than 70 pounds now and even looks a little fleshy in the face. She has been adopted and is supposed to move in with her new family in South Florida at the end of the school year. Members of that family were in the courtroom.

Neither of the Allains showed any visible emotion Thursday. After talking so much when their story first broke in 2004, and to the Times from the road when they were on the lam, and then at the Hernando County Jail in the months leading up to the trial, they were mostly silent in court.

[Last modified April 7, 2006, 01:31:16]


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