HOUSTON, Tex. (KBTX) - A family is fighting to keep the mother of a murdered four-year-old behind bars. They say a legal loophole is allowing her to come up for parole a lot earlier than expected.
Emma Thompson died in 2009 from abuse that prosecutors say her mother didn't stop.
"She was such a sweet child,” said Amanda Mathews, Thompson’s aunt. “She had the most beautiful red hair."
The 4-year-old was sexually abused and beaten before she died at the hands of her mother's boyfriend, Lucas Coe.
Emma's mother, Abigail Young, was sentenced to 20 years for not protecting the child.
"Abigail belongs in prison serving her time for what she allowed to happen to Emma,” said Mathews.
Mathews believes her sister could be released from prison before her time is served, all because of a loophole in Emma's Law; legislation passed in the girl's name six years ago. The law gives the parole board the right to review cases like Abigail's every five years instead of once a year.
"We actually had those solid years to think about her life and reflect on her life,” said Mathew. “Time to actually mourn her.”
But since Young has served nearly half of her sentence she's eligible for yearly reviews. On top of that Mathew believes Young is nearing another loophole; Mandatory Release.
"Discretionary Mandatory Release is when your good conduct time and the time you have actually served adds up to the amount of the sentence you received,” said KBTX legal analyst Shane Phelps.
Phelps says the family's fight to keep Abigail in prison comes down to explaining their pain and the risks in releasing young.
"Considering things like the nature of the offense, letters of support, whether you rehabilitation is accurately reflected by the good conduct time they've awarded you,” said Phelps. “If they don't think that is the case they can deny you mandatory release."
"Honestly I feel she should serve all 20 years, Emma doesn't get 20 years," said Mathews.
Next week, Mathews is going to Austin to testify before the parole board. The family is working with Crimestoppers of Houston to get another law passed making sure more cases don't fall into the same loophole.
If you would like to send a letter to the parole board for this case, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (512) 452-0825.
You can also mail letters to:
Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice
Victim Services Division
8712 Shoal Creek Blvd., Ste. 265
Austin, TX 78757