A jury in Bradley County on Thursday evening found Tasha Bates guilty of felony murder in the heat deaths of her two young sons.
Ms. Bates, 27, was also found guilty of aggravated child abuse.
She was sentenced to life in prison on the murders. She was not guilty as charged on meth counts, but guilty of lesser charges. Sentencing is Nov. 25 on the other charges.
She had told the jury on Thursday morning that she found her two young sons unresponsive outside her trailer home, and that they were not in her car. A medical examiner had testified Wednesday that it was not possible that the children's heat level could have risen so high just from the outside air.
Ms. Bates admitted smoking crystal meth (Ice) on occasion, but said she did not do so in front of her sons, five-year-old Leland Bates and three and a half-year-old River Bates. She also denied that meth was cooked at the garage portion of the residence where she stayed with the children. She said she did not know how meth-making items got in the garage.
She said she loved her sons, though she called them "rambunctious" and admitted referring to them as "the little turds" or "the little turkeys."
Ms. Bates was standing trial at the Bradley County Justice Center on two counts of felony murder as well as drug charges.
She said she did not leave the boys in the car and she did not fall asleep while they were outside.
She also denied that she had gone anywhere with the boys on the day of the incident - June 28, 2012. The next-door neighbor said she was driving by at 11:10 a.m. and saw the Bates vehicle pulling in to the trailer and garage on Keith Valley Road.
The defendant said she and the boys had gotten home the previous night around midnight or 12:30 a.m. at the latest. Preston Woods had told the jury he was with her until around 1:30 a.m.
Ms. Bates said Scott "Rooster" Rouse had shown up early on the 28th wanting to smoke meth. But she said she did not want to. She said Rouse made some calls and then left.
She said Leland and River got up early and went outside. She said she fixed them scrambled eggs, but she did not know if they ate the eggs. She said she did some picking up at the residence, that was described as "nasty and messy" by her aunt. She said she would look out a bedroom window at times to check on the boys.
She said she fixed lunch for the boys. She said they did not want to come in or take a nap. She said the boys wanted to continue playing outside. She said, "It was a gorgeous day and I didn't have a problem with them playing outside." It was testified that it was 101 degrees that day. Ms. Bates said, "It was hot every day that summer."
Ms. Bates said she noticed that she had not heard the children for awhile so she went out to check on them. She said she was in the trunk of her car getting some of her clothes when she heard Leland. She said she then discovered the boys outside and non-responsive.
She said she apparently dropped her cellphone in the trunk of the car after she "panicked." She said she only had texting so she did not think she had a way to call 911. She said, "I went running to them, grabbed them up and put them in the car." She then drove some two miles to her father's house.
Mr. Kile told of his daughter "come flying up the driveway, hollering for help."
The jury heard the 911 tape of her father, Tom Kile, calling for help. Ms. Bates could be heard crying and screaming in the background.
At one point in the call he asked her, "What happened?" She said, "I don't know." She said they had been playing outside on a Slip N Slide.
Mr. Kile said he and his sister had gotten the Slip N Slide for the boys. He said he had only recently renewed contact with his daughter after calling to tell her that his mother had died. He said he had begun spending time with her and the boys. He said he helped her in some cleaning at the place because he was planning to buy it and move in with her and the boys.
Prosecutor Stephen Hatchett noted that on June 28 Ms. Bates replied to a text message from a guy at 9:30 a.m., saying, "I am now."
He said she got a number of texts through the day, but the next time she sent one was to Rouse at 2:34 p.m. when she wrote, "Where were the the when you left?" The 911 call came just about 10 minutes later.
Ms. Bates said in the text to Rouse she was not referring to her sons, but to some friends.
She said she would get meth from Rouse, Laura Deaver and others. She said she also smoked it with Woods. Ms. Bates, who did not work at the time, said she never paid for any of the meth.
Asked why the residence remained such a mess, she said, "It's hard being a single mother." She said she mainly was kept busy tending to the sons.
She said she had told Detective Dewayne Scoggins in a final interview that she had found the children in the car because "I just wanted to go home. I felt I wasn't going to get to go anywhere until I told him what he wanted to hear."
Ms. Bates said on the evening prior to the incident she went to a church to meet a man she had been flirting with online. She said she sent him a picture of herself that she took in the car while on the way. She said she spent about two hours with Mike Meridian at the location.
She said her last job was with a cleaning company but it lasted only a couple of weeks because it was such hard work. She said she worked about five years at Petco grooming animals.
Ms. Bates said she smoked marijuana on occasion and used meth "maybe once or twice a month and not every month."
The prosecutor noted that she often sent text messages through the night and seemed to get little sleep.
She said the boys liked to play in her car and the smallest one knew how to get the key and start it up. She said he would turn the radio full blast.
The prosecutor noted testimony showed that it appeared the Slip N Slide had not been used that day, but it appeared that Ms. Bates had tried to spray the boys with water after finding them. She denied spraying them.
The grandmother of Ms. Bates said she had not known that she was on drugs. She said she could not tell it when she was around her.
She said if she had known it, she would have not allowed the boys to be around that.
Ms. Bates admitted lying to police when she said they stayed in the trailer rather than the garage. She said the garage was cooler.
The case went to the jury on Thursday afternoon.