VERNON, TX --
A Northwest Texas jury deliberated just eight minutes Texas Panhandle man has been sentenced to life in prison for beating his girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter to death. A Wilbarger County jury in Vernon sentenced 43-year-old Tommy Israel Castro of Amarillo on Wednesday. The same jury deliberated about two hours Tuesday before finding him guilty of murder in the July 4, 2009, death of Kati Earnest.
Prosecutors had sought a capital murder conviction, but jurors were given the option of a non-capital charge. District Attorney J. Staley Heatly says Castro must serve 30 years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole.
The conviction and sentencing comes about 8 1/2 months after the girl's mother, Kristina Earnest, was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to injury to a child.