Orangevale couple sentenced to 25 years to life for abusing, killing 5-year-old boy

Local News
Zachary Prater-Stokes

Zachary Prater-Stokes

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — A Sacramento County judge sentenced a couple to 25 years to life in prison Monday after they abused and tortured a 5-year-old boy before killing him.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office reported last month, a jury found Jessica Prater guilty of first-degree murder by torture, child assault causing death and child abuse with great bodily injury causing death. Her boyfriend, Adam Caldwell, was convicted of second-degree murder and child assault causing death.

Judge Stephen Acquisto sentenced each to 25 years to life in prison.

Prater had moved into Caldwell’s Orangevale home back in April 2016, bringing her 5-year-old son, Zachary Prater-Stokes, with her.

Mere months later, on June 2, Prater called 911 to say her son had swallowed water in the bathtub and was not responding. But when first responders found the boy, he was dry and clothed.

The young boy never regained consciousness and died at the hospital, the DA wrote.

An autopsy later confirmed he died from water submersion and blunt force injuries, which had been inflicted upon him by both his mother and his mother’s boyfriend.

In the months leading up to his death, the DA’s office said the 5-year-old had been abused, both psychologically and physically, by Caldwell, and then Prater.

“The physical abuse became more frequent and more violent,” the Sacramento County DA’s Office wrote.

“When this information comes out in court or during the case it will be information that will shock the conscience,” said Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Tony Turnbull back in 2016.

Both defendants’ cases involved nearly three years of pretrial conferences and hearings, with trial proceedings then interrupted in March 2020 by COVID-19 protocols imposed at Sacramento Superior County Court, court records show.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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