(KTEN) — Frank Smith Jr. was released from prison last week after serving a sentence for child abuse.

The case revolves around three-year-old James Smith of Wilson, who was killed in 2020.

"He’s out now; I don’t like it. I don’t want to see him," James Smith's mother, Kyla Burgess, said.

The child's aunt Shannon Smith pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and his father, James Darren Smith, was convicted of child abuse. The aunt was sentenced to 30 years in prison and 15 years of probation; the father was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 18 years of probation.

"It terrifies me to send my daughter to school now; I hate it," Burgess explained. "Literally turned my whole world upside down, and I just started getting to the point where I could go out, and I could socialize again, and he gets out, and it just throws me backward, but I’m trying to be positive and go forward because my daughter needs me."

In July 2020, Wilson Police received a call that the three-year-old had fallen from a crib.
An investigation showed that abuse caused James's death.

"They should've gotten longer sentences, I feel like," Burgess said. "They took 15 years of a child's childhood, and that doesn't even count him getting married or having kids or going to college and creating a person out of the baby he was. "They took that completely away, and not only did they end one person‘s life, but they also destroyed hundreds of hearts."

James Smith was murdered when he was three years old.

The slain child's mother, Kyla Burgess, is keeping James' memory alive more than two years later by raising awareness about child abuse.

"Decals for him in loving memory of him; we do the 1-in-4, because one of every four kids is abused," she said. "A balloon release... we'll do another in May. He would've been six. My daughter came up with that, because she's like, 'He doesn't have a birthday here, so we give him one in heaven.'" 

District Attorney Craig Ladd said Frank Smith Jr. witnessed the child abuse and failed to protect the child, which led to his conviction.

Frank Smith Jr.'s sentence includes 17 years of probation.

Ladd explained that Shannon Smith's abuse led to his death.

"It's a great example of how the aggravation or mitigation can vary greatly," Ladd explained. "(For Frank Smith JR) it was a failure to protect and then another abusing the child but not life-threatening, then another abusing him very severely which led to him dying."

Burgess said since her son's passing, her 10-year-old daughter has been able to help a friend recognize abuse and report it.

"I know a kid, and he was going through stuff. He became friends with my daughter, and he told my daughter what was going on, and she told him you’re not supposed to go through that," Burgess explained. "Now he’s in a better home. It’s just kids hearing it from other kids and learning that that’s not OK. It doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, brother, uncle, or sister; no kid deserves that."