Couple accused of making children sleep in cages lose custody
NORWALK, Ohio – A couple charged with abuse for forcing some of their 11 adopted children to sleep in cages were stripped of custody Monday, six months after a social worker discovered the enclosures.Juvenile Judge Timothy Cardwell said there was a good chance Michael and Sharen Gravelle would mistreat the children again, citing a history of sexual abuse allegations against the father.The couple have pleaded not guilty to several charges, including child endangerment, in a separate criminal case. They deny abusing the children, ages 2 to 15, and say the cages were necessary to protect the youngsters, who suffered from psychological and behavioral problems.”They love their children. They want them back. They are truly devastated,” said the couple’s attorney, Kenneth Myers. He said they will appeal the ruling.Sharen Gravelle testified that she met her husband in 1986 at a potluck dinner for a child sex abuse support group. She said her biological daughter had been molested by a previous husband, and Michael Gravelle was there because he was accused by his biological daughter of inappropriate touching. Michael Gravelle denies the accusation.Prosecutors accuse the couple of locking the children in cages to discipline them. One child testified that he was forced to sleep in a bathtub as punishment for wetting the bed.The children were removed from the home in September and placed with several foster families. Prosecutor Russ Leffler said the ruling stripping the Gravelles of custody “allows the children to be placed with good adoptive families.”Sharen Gravelle testified at an earlier custody hearing that she and her husband built bunk beds for the children and eventually added wire enclosures and alarms to help prevent them from wandering at night and getting dangerous kitchen utensils.—Associated Press Writer Connie Mabin in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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