Dinkler sentenced to prison in child-cruelty case
By Jason A. Smith
A McDonough man convicted of committing acts of cruelty on his two, adopted children, will have to spend two years behind bars as a result of a judge's ruling Monday.
Earl Dinkler was sentenced to 15 years, with two to serve in a state prison, following a hearing in Henry County Superior Court. Dinkler was found guilty of cruelty last month, just days after his wife, Deborah, pleaded guilty to the same charges.
Deborah Dinkler's sentence was identical to that of her husband's.
The couple had been accused of beating their kids, ages 12 and 14, with a belt and a wooden bat for several years, as a form of discipline. Prosecutors also said the Dinklers forced the children to run laps around their home and do other strenuous exercise.
Monday's hearing came at the conclusion of a pre-sentencing investigation ordered by Superior Court Judge Wade Crumbley, who presided over the trial for Earl Dinkler.
Defense Attorney Ricky Morris began the proceedings by presenting friends of the convicted couple, to speak on Earl Dinkler's behalf. Each witness described him as a dedicated father, a good provider for his family and a man who did not deserve to be sent to prison.
One of the individuals who took the stand was Anita Lindsay, a friend of the Dinklers for several years, who also taught piano lessons to their son and daughter. She said the relationship the children had with their father, was vastly different from how it was portrayed during the trial. "Every time those kids left my house when Earl came to pick them up, they went running to him with big hugs, and smiles on their faces."
According to Lindsay, the kids never gave any indication that they were being abused. She added that the children sometimes engaged in "acts of defiance," such as wetting their pants on purpose, which would result in the children having to wear diapers or use the restroom in a bucket located inside their rooms. "It all might be considered unconditional forms of discipline, and maybe not what I would have done with my own child, but ... those children were not abused, in my opinion," she continued. "I cannot see where [the outcome of the case] has all been in the best interest of those children."
Earl Dinkler, testifying on his own behalf, maintained his earlier position that he was unaware of the extent to which his wife inflicted injuries on the children. He said he hoped to be able to avoid jail time, and salvage a relationship with the kids. "If there's the slightest possibility that they would want to come home, I'm begging the court to allow me to keep a home for them come to."
McDonough Police Detective Chris Morris was the lead investigator in the Dinkler case, and addressed the judge during the sentencing hearing. The detective called the children "wonderful," and said the people who spoke up for Earl Dinkler "don't know the whole story." "All the things I saw in this case sicken me," added Morris. "I don't think Mr. Dinkler is a menace to society, but he was a menace to his children. [He] should have to suffer the same consequences as his wife, if not more."
Judge Crumbley, after hearing from both sides, summarized his feelings regarding what he called a "disturbing" case. "I have not been able to figure it out," he added. "Mr. and Mrs. Dinkler appear to be nice people ..., but I have heard no explanation of what happened here that I can rationalize."
The judge noted that the children appeared to have been "very badly beaten," and that the jury deliberated for approximately an hour before convicting Earl Dinkler. He then sentenced Dinkler, and ordered him to have no contact with the children until their 18th birthdays.
Following the judge's ruling, Ricky Morris expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the case for his client. He said the sentencing did not fit Earl Dinkler's actions. "He was less culpable," added Morris. "It's what he didn't do that got him two years in prison."
Henry County District Attorney Tommy Floyd disagreed with the defense attorney's assessment. Floyd acknowledged the case was "difficult" for everyone involved, including Crumbley, but said the sentence was "appropriate."
Earl Dinkler has hired his wife's defense attorney, Scott Key, to handle his appeal in the case. Key's first order of business, at the conclusion of the hearing, was to seek bond for his client for the duration of the appeal proceedings. The judge is expected to rule on the defense's motion Oct. 1.