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Parents In "Cage-Beds" Case Signal Plan To Appeal Custody Ruling
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 30, 2006

NORWALK, OHIO--The adoptive parents who forced some of their 11 children with disabilities to sleep in beds surrounded by wire are appealing a judge's ruling which terminated their parental rights.

Attorney Kenneth Myers, representing Michael and Sharen Gravelle, filed a notice in Huron County Juvenile Court on Wednesday, asking the 6th District Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Timothy Cardwell's March 20 ruling. In that decision, Cardwell said he believed the children would be at risk of further abuse if they were placed back with the couple. Myers will have 30 days to file the actual appeal.

Additionally, Myers filed motions asking that a trial on criminal child abuse and endangerment charges against the Gravelles be moved from Huron County because the local publicity keeps his clients from having a fair hearing. He also asked that certain evidence obtained through a search warrant be suppressed in part because the warrant suggested the children had been kept in small cages, rather than normal-size bunk beds.

County sheriff's deputies and social workers removed the children, who now range in age from 2 to 15, from the Gravelles' rural home on September 9, after a search revealed several wire and wood enclosures armed with electric alarms.

Earlier this month, Cardwell placed 10 of the children in the permanent custody of the county's Department of Job and Family Services. The other child, whose adoption had not been completed when she was removed from the Gravelle home, will be placed in temporary custody while it is determined whether her current foster parents could adopt her.

During a seven-day hearing, county social workers testified that the Gravelles continued to create a hostile environment, and refused to cooperate with them. Michael Gravelle's adult daughter also testified that her father sexually abused her when she was a child.

The Gravelles have said they needed to use strict discipline to handle the children because of their disabilities. The couple said the beds were covered with wire and electric alarms to keep the children from wandering around the house, urinating on baseboard heaters, taking knives from the kitchen and hitting each other.

Several of the children testified in December, including one who said he and his siblings were sent into the chicken-wire enclosures as punishment, often for soiling or wetting their beds. The boy also recounted how he was forced to spend 81 days in the family's bathroom -- only being let out for some meals and to go to school -- as punishment for urinating in his wire "box".

Last month, the Gravelles were charged with 16 criminal counts of felony child endangering, eight misdemeanor counts of falsifying adoption applications, and one felony count of lying under oath when being qualified for adoption funding.

Independent licensed social worker Elaine Thompson was also charged with 16 felony counts of aiding and abetting child endangering, eight misdemeanor counts of complicity to child endangering, and eight misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect.

"Parents appeal loss of custody of caged kids" (Toledo Blade)


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