Ohio couple sentenced to 2 years in prison for child endangerment

By Thomas J. Sheeran The Associated Press

NORWALK, Ohio – A couple convicted of child endangering for forcing some of their 11 adopted, special-needs children to sleep in cages each were sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison.

Huron County Common Pleas Judge Earl McGimpsey gave Michael and Sharen Gravelle sentences ranging from six months to two years on four felonies and seven misdemeanor charges, but ordered the prison time be served concurrently.

They faced one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000 for each felony count. That meant the Gravelles could have gotten a maximum sentence of 20 years each. None of the charges carried mandatory jail time.

The Gravelles have said they will appeal their convictions. The judge allowed them to remain free on bond pending the appeal.

Both defendants kept their composure while the judge read the sentences. Sharen Gravelle kept her head down taking notes, while her husband sat back in his chair holding his face in his left hand.

The Gravelles each spoke during the nearly two-hour hearing that also included statements from some of the children being read.

Sharen Gravelle cried during a 26-minute statement to the court, in which she blamed social services officials for not helping them control the destructive behavior of some of the youngsters.

She said the children were never confined as punishment but rather to protect them, including a child who wanted to jump out a second-floor window.

“Would you prefer that we let them jump? Either way, we’d be here. The difference is they’re still alive,” she said.

“That was not punishment, no matter what’s said,” she said.

The couple has said they needed to keep some of the children in enclosed beds with alarms to protect them from their own dangerous behavior and stop them from wandering at night.

The children, who suffered from problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating nonfood items, ranged in age from 1 to 14 when authorities removed them in September 2005 from the Gravelles’ home in Wakeman, about 60 miles west of Cleveland. They were placed in foster care in fall 2005 and the couple lost custody last March.