Skip to Full Menu

Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Gravelle Attorney Says Pictures Show Happy Children
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 14, 2005

CLEVELAND, OHIO--The attorney representing Michael and Sharen Gravelle last week provided the Cleveland Plain Dealer with photographs of family holiday and birthday celebrations to counter charges that his clients abused their 11 children and kept them in cages against their will.

Attorney David Sherman said that the parents have saved the children from having to be warehoused in institutions.

The 20 or so pictures reportedly show the children, ages 1 to 15, laughing and playing with toys and gifts. They also show what Sherman called "enclosures" -- the wooden boxes built into the walls of the children's upstairs bedrooms which police claim were wired with alarms to alert the parents when the children tried to get out.

After seeing the photographs, Huron County Sheriff Dick Sutherland, said: "You can't photograph the smell."

Sherman blamed the odor on the children, saying their disabilities caused them to urinate in heating vents.

The children, all of whom were either adopted by the Gravelles or in their care as foster parents, have been described as "special needs" kids, having disabilities and medical conditions including autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and pica, a condition in which the person tries to eat non-food items.

Authorities removed the children from the Gravelles' home on September 9 after receiving a tip that the parents were locking the children in wire cages at night and for punishment during the day.

Police found the cages, which were built into walls with a wooden frame made of 2 x 4s and covered with thick rabbit-cage wire. Some of the cages had mats but no blankets or pillows. Some of the children reportedly said they had slept in the cages for several years.

Since authorities began their abuse investigation, a neighbor has alleged that the Gravelles beat the children with broom handles. Mr. Gravelle's adult children claim that he abused them as well.

The Gravelles are fighting to have custody restored and the children to be returned. A custody hearing has been set for December 6.

Sherman said the allegations against his client are not true, and only come from people who want to destroy the family.

"These are happy children," he told the Plain Dealer.

"If it weren't for the Gravelles, these children would be warehoused in institutions," he added.

"Photos show happy children,' attorney says" (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
"Lawyer: 'Caged' kids cried after visit" (CNN)


©2018 The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
 370 Centennial Office Building  658 Cedar Street   St. Paul, Minnesota 55155 
Phone: 651.296.4018   Toll-free number: 877.348.0505   MN Relay Service: 800.627.3529 OR 711   Fax: 651.297.7200 
Email:   View Privacy Policy   An Equal Opportunity Employer 

The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center,the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.