Court Hears Accounts Of Abuse From Gravelle Children,
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 8, 2006
NORWALK, OHIO--Some of Michael and Sharen Gravelle's children and neighbors took the stand in this, the second week of testimony in the couple's child endangerment trial.
The husband and wife are accused of keeping some of their 11 adopted children -- many with disabilities -- in wire enclosures armed with loud alarms. They are facing 16 counts of felony child endangerment and eight counts of misdemeanor child endangerment. They face from one to five years in prison and up to $10,000 for each felony count if the jury convicts them.
On Wednesday, one son testified that the couple punished him by making him spend several weeks inside a bed enclosed with wire mesh and wood, while copying in long hand the entire Book of Deuteronomy -- a collection of sermons by Moses from the Bible. He said he did not like staying in the "cage" because it was hot inside, smelled strongly of urine, and he sometimes had to go without bedding.
The boy, whose name and age is not being released, told the court how his parents made him live for 81 days with just a pillow and a blanket inside a bathtub in the children's only bathroom as punishment for wetting his bed. He explained that he was only allowed out when other children had to bathe and -- sometimes -- to eat. He also said the couple used such things as large sticks and a 2 X 4 to beat him and some of his siblings.
He went on to describe how the Gravelles sometimes slapped his younger sister, who has Down syndrome, stuffed socks into her mouth if she was caught breathing with her mouth open, and dunked her head in the toilet.
"She would drink water a lot and so they would get mad and they would say, 'You like water so much, here.' And they would stick her head in the toilet," he said.
"It just wasn't nice," he said.
Neighbor Laurie Oney testified that she saw Mrs. Gravelle spank one boy on the back of the legs with a broom handle for speaking when she did not want him to.
''She went after that kid and started really spanking him,'' said Oney.
Carlisle Smith, who was interviewed by the couple in 2003 for a job as a respite worker, testified that he was immediately offended because Mrs. Gravelle referred to the children as "little monkeys", a term that Smith said he believed was racially motivated because all of the children are black and the Gravelles are white.
Smith went on to say Mrs. Gravelle told him that if the children misbehaved he might need to sit on them. He also described how Mrs. Gravelle got angry with one boy who -- in the middle of the afternoon -- asked to use the bathroom.
"She told him to go to his cage until morning," Smith said.
Smith testified further that Mr. Gravelle told him he believed he was Moses and only needed to take in a couple more 'special needs' children to be able to quit his job.
Smith also explained that he reported what he had seen to authorities, but that he never heard whether there had been any follow up.
Huron County Sheriffs deputies and Department of Job and Family Services social workers removed the children, then ages 1 through 14, from the home on September 9, 2005 -- two years after Smith's report -- after finding the wood and wire cage beds in upstairs bedrooms, along with a strong smell of urine and no functioning smoke detectors.
The couple have said they needed the strict discipline and the wire enclosures to better deal with the behavior of the children, most of which reportedly have disabilities or medical conditions.
The Gravelles have since lost custody of all of the children.
The trial is expected to last at least one more week.
"Trial witness: Cages used for discipline" (Cincinnati Post)
"Boy recounts punishment in caged children case" (Cincinnati Post)
"Adopted Children Take the Stand In Caged Kids Trial" (Ohio News Now)
"Social worker says he saw abuse" (The Morning Journal)
"Gravelle neighbor: I reported abuse twice" (Sandusky Register)
"Gravelles are called bad parents" (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
"Psychologist says cages were humiliating for children" (Akron Beacon Journal)