LAKE HOPATCONG -- A woman who starved her four children and herself, telling them God would provide for their family, was sentenced today to eight years in prison by a judge who labeled her a "passive, self-centered and narcissistic individual" who violated the tenets of the Bible.
Superior Court Judge N. Peter Conforti, sitting in Newton, ordered Estelle Walker, 50, of New York City, to serve four years before becoming eligible for parole. She was given credit for the 460 days she already served in the Sussex County jail, meaning she’ll be eligible for parole in about 33 months.
Before imposing the sentence, Conforti told Walker that the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, is filled with references to motherhood and how mothers should care for their children.
"The court has read the Bible, too. Mothers are told to love their children," Conforti told Walker, whose attorney had argued she failed to provide food to her children — ages 8, 9, 11 and 13 at the time — because she was praying for divine intervention.
"It’s a special kind of love ... A child is a gift from God. Mothers must care for their children and meet their needs," the judge said.
Walker, who at the time of her arrest was living in cabin at Lake Hopatcong to escape an abusive relationship, did not speak during today’s hearing.
In arguing for probation rather than jail time, defense attorney Ronald Nicola said Walker suffered from a "delusional disorder" that caused her to have an overreliance on God.
However, two weeks before Walker was convicted, and after a brief competency hearing, Conforti determined she was fit to stand trial. He found that while Walker was a devoutly religious woman, she understood the court proceedings and the charges against her.
Nicola also argued today that Walker’s husband, Wellington Walker, should accept some of the blame. Wellington Walker testified that he made no effort to help his family after they left him.
Walker, her four younger children and an 18-year-old daughter were placed in the lakefront cabin by their church, the Manhattan-based Times Square Church, in 2005.
When Walker, whose religious beliefs relied on strict interpretation of the Bible, refused to leave the cabin in May 2006 — claiming God wanted her to stay — the church began eviction proceedings and cut off financial support that ranged from $700 to $1,000 a month, most of which was for food.
Walker was arrested July 25, 2006, on four counts of child endangerment for failing to provide food to her children. She was convicted on Jan. 21of this year on all charges.
In 2008, Walker rejected a plea deal that would have spared her any more jail time than the year she had already served. She decided instead to go to trial and face a possible 40-year prison sentence — four consecutive 10-year terms for each of the charges.
During the trial, three of Walker’s children testified their mother did not look for work or provide for them. At one point, they said, they went 11 days without food. By July 2006, when a neighbor called police, the 8-year-old girl weighed just 34 pounds, the same as she weighed two years earlier. The children have since recovered.
Conforti said Walker, who also starved herself after the church withdrew its financial aid, had the ability to provide for herself and her children. She was a college graduate who once pursued a master’s degree in social work at Columbia University and had worked as a teacher in the New York City school system from 1989 to 1994, the judge said.
"God did provide. (Walker) possessed the talents that God provided to her," Conforti said. "She was given the talents by the Creator, but for whatever reason she chose not to use them."
Click to view image: '30977a83916f-20071105rosie.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|