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The Associated Press contributed to this story.
SURGOINSVILLE, Tenn. - A Tennessee couple have been sentenced to 35 years each in prison after the death of a 5-year-old girl they forced to drink large amounts of grape soda as punishment.
The Kingsport Times News said 41-year-old Randall Lee Vaughn and 58-year-old Mary Lavonne Vaughn of Surgoinsville were sentenced Monday in Hawkins County Criminal Court.
The Vaughns pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated child neglect. Randall was the father of the little girl, Alexa Linboom, and Mary was her step-mother.
Officials said that on Jan. 1, 2012, the Vaughns forced Alexa, who formerly lived in Rock Falls, Illinois, to drink about 2.4 liters of soda and water over one to two hours as punishment. The massive liquid intake caused her brain to swell and herniate, and she died two days later.
The girl's mother, Katie Linboom of Rock Falls, told the Sterling Daily Gazette in Illinois she visited her daughter's grave in Surgoinsville after the hearing and felt some closure.
Attorney General Berkeley Bell told the Times News in Kingsport, Tennessee, “they also failed to take care of the child once she was injured.”
“Our position is it was a matter of several hours after the child started exhibiting serious symptoms, after the child was screaming out in pain, went into a paralyzed state, and became unconscious.”
There were six children living in the house at the time, the others are now in foster care.