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French Mother Sentenced to 15 Years

October 2, 1999

EPINAL, France (AP) _ A mother was convicted Friday of abusing her young son, forcing him to sleep in a pigsty and kicking and punching him regularly as part of what one witness said was a ``game″ the family played. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Sandra Virot was convicted of neglect, torture and failure to feed her son, Johnny, who was 4 years old at the time of the abuse by his mother and six other family members.

The court gave Ms. Virot, 25, a more severe sentence than the prosecutor’s recommendation of a 10-year jail term.

Ms. Virot’s husband was sentenced to eight years, her cousin to 15 years and four other relatives to two to 12 years.

French police were alerted to the boy’s plight in 1996 when a carpenter who had come for the payment of a bill saw Johnny crouched in a corner of the kitchen, his face badly swollen. He was found to have multiple bruises from kicks and punches, was undernourished, witnesses said.

The accused showed little remorse and few signs of emotion throughout the trial this week in eastern France. There were frequent gasps from the public as details of the violence emerged.

A psychologist told the court that the family had ``played a game″ of who could inflict the most violence on the child. All seven as well as Johnny lived in the same house.

Johnny’s mother, Sandra, said she detested the child because he was born during a previous relationship with another man, and not her current husband, Rene. Rene also hated the child for that reason, witnesses said.

Johnny, now 7 years old and living with a foster family with his 3-year-old sister, came to the court Thursday but stayed only briefly.

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