Date: 1993-11-04



November 4, 1993
Janice Haidet
Dayton Daily News
Judge Richard T. Cole on Wednesday acquitted James Carroll of Cedarville on all charges in the bleach-burning death of his adopted 6-year-old sister, Hannah.

The judge offered no explanation for his decision, and declined to discuss the controversial, high-profile case. After Cole finished reading his verdict, Kathleen Carroll gave a hearty hug to her son's lawyers, John Rion and Dennis Gump, flung her arms around James and then stood on her tiptoes and raised both hands with thumbs up, signaling to supporters in the hallway outside the Greene County Juvenile courtroom.

Many of those in the hallway have stayed with the family since its court battles began with Hannah's death more than a year ago. They've seen the family through the criminal convictions of Timothy and Mrs. Carroll on neglect charges in Hannah's death, through four other deaths among the Carrolls' 10 adopted children, a coroner's inquest, two exhumations, the removal of a judge and removal of several children from the Carroll home.

A constant presence, the family's pastor, Wesley Brubaker, cried. His wife, Carolyn, smiled and said, "See, I told you the truth would come out."

And James Carroll broke the silent demeanor he'd maintained through the three-day trial. Beaming, he at first said, "I'm speechless." Then he said, "I knew I was innocent, so I agreed with (the decision)."

A reporter asked James whether he resented Greene County Prosecutor William F. Schenck and others who believed he had harmed Hannah. "They were doing their job," he replied - then sighed and said, "and they did it well."

Rion said he and Gump were concerned. "Bill Schenck is one of the finest trial lawyers in the state of Ohio. If he can't get a conviction, no one can."

James, 17, said he was looking forward to "going outside" and to sleeping without difficulty - two things he hasn't done since August, when he was charged with delinquency by involuntary manslaughter and placed on house arrest in the family's Cedarville home. Mrs. Carroll said they're going to have a party.

Schenck was reflective. "I don't know the reason for the judge's decision and I probably never will know," he said. He didn't want to comment on whether he could have gotten a different result from a jury. In Ohio, a sole judge or referee decides juvenile cases.

Schenck did say he feels it was a fair trial, noting that Cole - whom Schenck had tried to remove - allowed his experts to testify, despite defense objections.

Schenck's best guess is that Cole didn't believe the experts' burn-pattern analyses, or perhaps didn't believe there was enough evidence placing James in the laundry room with Hannah at the time of the incident.

Hoping to prove that James was guilty of the most serious charge, delinquency by involuntary manslaughter, Schenck presented testimony of two experts who insisted that Hannah could not have poured the bleach on herself in a way that created the burn patterns found on her body - and Schenck said James "was the only person who had access to Hannah" at the time of the incident.

Schenck particularly took issue with the notion that James removed the girl's clothing and rinsed her immediately. Failure to do so would have constituted delinquency by child endangering, one of the lesser charges James faced. Schenck produced burn experts who said Hannah's burns could only have resulted from prolonged exposure to bleach.

Schenck said he remains haunted by the photographs depicting red, raw wounds and open flesh on 30 percent of Hannah's body, and said he doesn't feel justice has been served.

However, he said, "The system has spoken. . . . This case, in this death to this child, is concluded."

But the Carroll case itself is not closed, he said.

Custody issues remain, with 12-year-old Isaiah and 5-year-old Samuel still in foster care. Cole removed them from the Carroll home Aug. 17, leaving only James and Hosea, 10, with Mr. and Mrs. Carroll. The parents have been barred from further adoptions without approval from the juvenile court.

The investigation into the June 14 death of 12-year-old Josiah continues, and still could result in charges, Schenck said.

The case has troubled Schenck deeply - and, he said that, in his 23 years as a lawyer, "I've never been involved in any case that has brought so much comment from friend and foe alike."


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