LAW & DISORDER: Mother faces 20 years for keeping adopted son in cage

Relates to:
Date: 2008-02-08

LAW & DISORDER: Mother faces 20 years for keeping adopted son in cage

Son, 17, was found malnourished in cage in Arlington home.

By The Times-Union

A Jacksonville mother pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated child abuse Thursday, three years after child welfare investigators found her 17-year-old adopted son caged and malnourished in their East Arlington home.

Brenda M. Sullivan, 51, faces up to 20 years in prison under terms of her plea agreement. She had faced a maximum of 90 years if convicted of all three counts. Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper scheduled sentencing for the week of March 10.

In exchange for Sullivan's plea, prosecutors dropped lesser child-neglect charges.

Assistant State Attorney Julie Schlax plans to argue for a stiff sentence and told Cooper she will call witnesses from Ohio, where Sullivan and her family lived before moving to Jacksonville. Some of the abuse occurred in Ohio, and it involved all three of her children from 2000 to 2005, Schlax said.

"She maliciously punished these children during those five years," Schlax said.

Sullivan and her husband, Wilson Sullivan, were arrested in March 2005, two months after abuse investigators from the state Department of Children and Families found their 17-year-old adopted son locked in a crib and weighing 49 pounds. Brenda Sullivan told a judge shortly after her arrest that Ohio authorities told her to keep the boy, who had severe medical and emotional problems, in a crib.

Wilson Sullivan, 57, died in January 2007 while awaiting trial in the case.

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