A Reserve mother who, along with her husband and stepson, is under indictment in connection with the death of her 8-year-old son, reiterated their innocence Tuesday and blamed the judicial system for unfairly charging them.
Surrounded by a small group of friends and family, Tonya Victor -- at times tearful and visibly furious -- disputed the charges at a news conference she called at a parking lot near the St. John the Baptist Parish jail, where her husband remains in custody.
"We lost M.L. We are not murderers," said Victor, 33, who has been charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and cruelty to a juvenile. "Our family had a horrible tragedy."
One relative likened the parish district attorney's case against the Victors to a lynching.
"There's a lynching going on," said Terry Sippio, Errol Victor Sr.'s brother-in-law and president of an organization called Justice for All.
Assistant District Attorney Barry Landry, who is prosecuting the murder case, said he had no comment in response to the accusations.
"I have to prosecute this case in the courtroom and not in the press," Landry added.
St. John District Attorney Tom Daley said that he stands by the evidence presented in court, and "not theatrics at a press conference."
A status hearing is scheduled for March.
On April 1, 2008, St. John authorities arrested Victor; her husband, Errol Victor Sr.; and her stepson, Errol Victor Jr., in connection with the death of M.L. Lloyd III.
All three were later indicted and pleaded innocent.
Nearly a year after the boy's death, his mother and stepbrother remain free on bail while his stepfather returned to jail last week after a judge revoked his $2 million bond.
Lloyd was pronounced dead on April 1, 2008, shortly after he was brought to River Parishes Hospital. Authorities said Errol Victor Jr., 22, carried the child into the emergency room in LaPlace about 12:30 p.m. When emergency room staff took the child, both Errol Victor Jr. and Tonya Victor left the hospital.
Errol Victor Jr. was charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, while Errol Victor Sr. was charged with first-degree murder.
Authorities say the child might have been beaten and dragged naked after he died, while defense attorneys for the Victor family say the 8-year-old had a pre-existing condition that lead to his death.
A judge ordered Errol Victor Sr. taken into custody on Feb. 11, after an hours-long hearing that included a video statement from one of Lloyd's brothers, who said he saw the child being beaten, and testimony from a doctor who said the boy suffered from asthma.
Victor, 43, had been free on bond since June, but District Court Judge A.J. Kling Jr. said Lloyd's death has been ruled a homicide and thus is a capital case. He said state law does not allow bail for suspects charged with a capital offense.
Tonya Victor said the bond hearing was a set-up, and that her husband is being targeted by parish officials because he is a developer.
Errol Victor Sr. got approval to develop an 85-home subdivision in Reserve on East 22nd Street, also known as Louisiana 3179, by the St. John Parish Council in 2005.
When Victor went before the council, several residents spoke out against the subdivision. However, Landry, acting as parish attorney, told the council he would not recommend denying approval of the subdivision if the developer had met all of the normal requirements and a moratorium was not in place. His subdivision was approved by the Parish Council.
During Tuesday's news conference, Victor and her stepson disputed video testimony given by one of her other young sons that was aired at the bond hearing that painted her husband as a harsh, uncaring disciplinarian who favored his biological sons.
In that testimony, the boy said he witnessed his stepfather and three other brothers hitting Lloyd the night before his death for stealing ice cream. He testified that the brothers held Lloyd down by his arms, under his stepfather's direction.
Victor said her husband loved each of their 13 sons equally, while Errol Victor Jr. called his younger stepbrother a "perverted liar."
"He has always been a problem child before we met. Before he even came into our lives, he was getting chastised by teachers almost every day," Errol Victor Jr. said. "He's a liar being misused."
The Victor family is a blended one: Victor said she had five sons, and Errol Victor Sr. had six sons when they met. The couple later had two sons -- a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old -- whom she said she has not seen since she was arrested.
Nine of the remaining children, all younger than 18, were taken by the parish's Office of Community Services after Lloyd's death.
Victor said she still does not know where Lloyd was buried.
The child's body was released to his father, M.L. Lloyd Jr. His funeral was held in Hammond, according to his paternal family members.
"We love our son, still do," Victor said. "Miss him dearly. But (his death) wasn't by the cause of my family."