CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The mother of a 23-month-old boy beaten to death by his father says she doesn't want the dad sentenced to death row.

Lashinna Burger says she has forgiven Andre Hampton for the murder of Elijah Burger.

Hampton murdered Elijah in 2008 because the toddler wouldn't eat his soup. One detective called it the worst murder he has ever seen and Elijah had too many wounds on his body to count from a severe beating from a toothbrush, hairbrush and belt.

A jury convicted Hampton last week of felony child abuse and felony murder by torture, but a jury has yet to decide his fate. The options are life in prison or death row due to the severity of the crime.

Burger says she hated Andre Hampton for years after the murder.

He tried to reach out to me, but I wouldn't talk to him, she said.

Burger says she now forgives Hampton for everything he did, including beating her and dislocating her arm, for taking Elijah after a fight, for using Elijah to get her to drop a restraining order, for whipping Elijah with a belt every other day and for all the bruises she regularly saw on Elijah's body, according to Wednesday's court testimony.

Burger also told jurors Hampton was excited to be Elijah's dad and they had good times as a family.

When questioned by prosecutors, Burger said she told investigators Hampton didn't whip his other son like he did Elijah because that other son has Hampton's last name, but Elijah didn't.

Still, Burger says Hampton s punishment for taking a life shouldn't be his life.

I want him to live. He needs to get himself together. He needs to seek God so when he passes away, maybe he'll still reach others, that's why I want him to live, to get himself together with God, she said. I'm a Christian now, so I feel like if I was to tell them to put him to death, I'm judging him and I have no right to judge him no matter what he did.

A jury does have that right. Closing arguments are expected to start Thursday morning.

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