Couple say restraints were used for safety of girl, 5

Date: 2005-01-02

TOMS RIVER (AP) _ An Ocean County couple accused of neglecting a 5-year-old foster daughter used restraints on the girl to prevent her from hurting herself and three other children in the household, the couple's pastor told the Asbury Park Press.

The Rev. Roger Brotherton said Cynthia and Ernest Davison of Beachwood told investigators of the restraints, the newspaper reported for yesterday's editions.

Brotherton, pastor of Ocean Christian Community Church in Dover Township, said the girl has Down's syndrome and suffers from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome.

''One of the things she was prone to was scratching herself and pulling at herself and damaging herself,'' Brotherton said. ''I understand she would reach out and do damage to the other children. If there was a restriction, it was isolation in another room so she wouldn't hurt the other children. If there were physical restraints, it was so she wouldn't hurt herself.'' Brotherton said the couple told him Thursday they had given that information to officials with the Division of Youth and Family Service, the state's child welfare agency.

The Davisons were arrested Thursday. The girl, who was living with them as she awaited adoption, weighed 21 pounds and was removed from the home Wednesday after an anonymous tipster alerted child welfare officials.

Ernest Richard Davison, 51, and his wife, Cynthia Joan Davison, 48, each were charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment, the Ocean County prosecutor's office said. Both were taken to the county jail and then released Thursday night after posting $150,000 bail each.

Three other children living in the home also were removed by state authorities. Two of those children had been adopted by the Davisons; the other two, including the injured girl, were awaiting adoption by the couple, authorities said.

The child was placed with the couple through the Lutheran Adoption Services, a private agency, in October 2003, authorities said.

After the Division of Youth and Family Services received the tip, two caseworkers went to the home and determined the child had been neglected.

The girl was then taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, where medical personnel found she was suffering from malnutrition and had injuries consistent with being restrained for considerable periods of time, authorities said.

Authorities declined to release the girl's name and her condition was not available.

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