BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — A judge ordered Jesse Tatum on Monday to spend no less to 39 years in prison for the Nov. 29, 2012, incident in which Karrina Johnson, 8, of Battle Creek was killed during the blaze.
Tatum set the Young Street home on fire after an argument with Janeen Johnson, Karrina’s mother. Two other children were in the house during the fire, but they managed to escape by jumping out the second story window.
During the sentencing Monday, the girl’s aunt addressed the court and said that Tatum deserved the maximum sentence of life in prison.
The defense said Monday Tatum’s intent was never to harm the children, that he knocked on the door to make sure nobody was home. In court, Tatum apologized to the victim’s family.
“I would have never did it if I knew the kids were there,” said Tatum. “I know I can’t bring her back to life, but I apologize and I’m sorry”
Tatum pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as a habitual offender on Dec. 2, 2013.
A Battle Creek man had already pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the fire. Michael Roberson, 27, was sentenced to three years of probation, according to Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
Tatum set the Young Street home on fire after an argument with Janeen Johnson, Karrina’s mother.
Roberson’s cooperation was key to bringing him to justice, according to Calhoun County officials.