Boy Says Parents Used Cages And Bathroom As Punishment
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 9, 2005
NORWALK, OHIO--Testimony from a school-age boy Thursday contradicted his parents' claims that they kept some of their 11 "special needs" children in wire cages for their own safety.
The boy, whose name was not identified in news reports, said that his adoptive parents, Michael and Sharen Gravelle, often sent him and his siblings into the chicken-wire enclosures as punishment, sometimes for soiling or wetting their beds.
The boy recounted other punishments for urinating in his wire "box", such as being forced one time to spend 81 days in the bathroom, only being let out for some meals and to go to school. At other times, he testified, his parents made him go outside in wet clothes while the rest of the family got up to use the bathroom.
"Whenever I peed, I had to stand outside, no matter what it is, raining, snowing, nice outside. It's a rule. Whenever you pee, you wait outside until everyone else is done using the bathroom."
While the Gravelles claim that the wire beds were armed with alarms to alert them when a child was out, the boy told the Huron County Juvenile Court that the children were often punished for trying escape. He said the younger children were often spanked.
In one instance, his parents forced him to stay in his cage for up two weeks for taking peanut butter, bread and cereal from the kitchen. During that time he was given only peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and was made to write down all 34 chapters of one book of the Bible.
"I couldn't come out of my room until I wrote the whole book of Deuteronomy," he said. "I was up there for like a month."
The boy also said he saw his mother push one child's head down into the toilet when the girl was found drinking from it. The children were not allowed to eat or drink anything -- even to get a glass of water -- without parental permission, he said.
At one point, he told the court that he saw both of his parents hold a brother, who resisted getting his hair washed, under the faucet, and at one point held his face against a wall until his nose bled.
When asked by the Gravelles' attorney, the boy admitted lying often when he was younger and being aggressive toward his siblings.
When he was asked whether he preferred being with the Gravelles or in a foster home, he said: "It doesn't matter. There's no sense getting comfortable at any place."
The children, ages 1 to 15, were taken from the Gravelle home on September 9 after a social worker and several sheriff's deputies searched the residence. There, they found several wire and wood enclosures, a strong smell of urine, and no working smoke alarms on the second floor where all of the children slept.
Judge Timothy Cardwell will determine whether the Gravelle children, who all have disabilities and medical conditions, were abused or neglected. If the allegations are not proved, the couple could regain custody.
"Caged kids lived in fear, aide says" (Toledo Blade)
"Officer: Kids said they were beaten, confined" (Morning Journal)
"Boy Testifies About Foster Home With Cages" (Associated Press)
"One child testifies in caged-kids hearing" (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
"Girl's head pushed into toilet as punishment, youth testifies" (Toledo Blade)