What A.J. Saw: Mother's Fate Hinged on 7-Year-Old's Testimony

Seven-year-old accused mother of drowning sister, but could he be believed?

ByABC News
November 3, 2010, 11:57 AM

Dec. 3, 2010 — -- In a Florida courtroom, a life hinged on the testimony of a 7-year old boy.

A.J. Hutto was the pint-sized star witness in a tragic case that split his family and put the fate of his mother, Amanda Lewis, in his tiny hands.

The trial marked the first time A.J. had seen his mother in six months. He didn't recognize her at first. Once he did, he broke down crying.

So did Lewis.

"I kept asking my attorney to please stop," she told "20/20." "Please stop this."

Click here to watch the full story.

Lewis' and A.J.'s story began in Esto, Fla. Blink and you'll miss the town, which has a population of 361. Even people who live there say there's little to see.

Lewis, a 27-year-old single mother, lived in Esto in 2007 with her two children, A.J., then 6, and his half-sister, Adrianna, 7, in a modest home.

"It was very quiet, very calm," Lewis said. "I loved my life."

Her daughter, Lewis said, was an attention-seeker.

"She was a happy child. She was very outgoing, very hyper. ... She looked like me, she act like me, she was headstrong like me," she said. " She was like my walking shadow."

A.J. was the calmer, more relaxed child.

"He was quiet," Lewis said. "He could sit in the corner and play by his self and be content and happy."

Aug. 8, 2007, would be their last day together. A nurse's assistant at a nursing home, Lewis said she left her night shift and napped while the kids watched cartoons. The plan for the day was to shop for school supplies. The temperature exceeded 100 degrees and the kids, Lewis said, wanted to swim.

"I told them that we couldn't get in the pool today because we were getting ready to go. So they wanted to go outside and play for a few minutes while I got everything ready," she said.

Outside in the yard sat a 4-foot deep, above-ground pool. Without adult supervision, it was off limits to the kids, with the pool ladder locked in the shed.

Lewis said A.J. came back into the house.

"He said, 'Mama, Adrianna is in the pool,'" she said. "At first I thought he meant maybe she was by the pool and I said, "OK, well, tell her to come in.' "

'I Knew Right Then My Baby Was Gone'

Lewis said as soon as she looked out the back door at A.J., their lives took a tragic turn.

"He was raking in the water with his hand, like he was trying to grab her ... I ran out, ran out of the house," she said. "When I got to the pool … she was face down. ... She was very purple, very blue."

Lewis said she started giving Adrianna CPR and called 911.

"Send an ambulance please. My daughter fell in the pool and she's not breathing," Lewis can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher on a recording of the call.

"Her lips are purple, what do I do? Water's just coming out of her nose," she said. "Please hurry."

CLICK HERE to see Lewis recount her story and hear her 911 call.

Adrianna was airlifted to the nearest hospital. Emergency room doctor Linda Fox said she and others worked on the girl for more than an hour and were able to regain a pulse, but it didn't last. She was pronounced dead at 5:05 p.m.

When a doctor told Lewis her daughter had died, she said, she was sick to her stomach.

"I kissed her, I hugged her," she said. "I touched her. Because I knew that it would be the last time, the last time I'd see her. I knew right then my baby was gone.