Shocked judge sentences pair to prison for disabled girl's nightmare foster care

Date: 2006-07-21

Author: MICHAEL AMSEL/TOMS RIVER BUREAU

Calling the case an "incomprehensible atrocity" like nothing else he had ever seen, Superior Court Judge Peter J. Giovine on Thursday sentenced to prison the foster parents of a disabled girl found severely malnourished while in their care.

Cynthia and Ernest Davison of Beachwood received terms of four and three years, respectively, for child endangerment. The 5-year-old girl weighed just 21 pounds and bore marks of injuries indicating she had been restrained when authorities entered their home in December 2004 and removed the child.

Prior to his sentencing, Ernest Davison said he was "terribly sorry for the child and everyone involved."

"I regret my lack of action," he said.

Moments before that, weeping and looking distraught, Cynthia Davison mumbled "I'm sorry" when Giovine asked if she had anything to say. She mouthed "I love you" to her husband as she was led away in handcuffs.

The malnourished girl, now 6, had been placed with the couple in October 2003 by a private agency, authorities said. She was removed from the Davisons' home in December 2004, along with three other disabled children living there, by state Division of Youth and Family Services workers who received a tip that a child who lived there was being neglected.

Authorities said they found the girl malnourished, with bruises on her ankles and wrists indicating she had been restrained for long periods of time. The other children appeared well cared for, authorities said.

Giovine said he was horrified and appalled when he examined photos of the malnourished child.

"In all my years, I have never seen anything like that," Giovine said. "It was unimaginable. I am just dumbfounded how this occurred. One asks oneself how one human being can do something like that to another human being."

The malnourished girl is now doing well, authorities said.

Attorney Steve Secare, who represented Ernest Davison, said the prison term was warranted.

"There are few things more abhorrent in our society than the neglect of a child," Secare said.

Attorney S. Karl Mohel, who represented Cynthia Davison, said his client really regrets what happened.

"She has been very remorseful from the first day that I met her," Mohel said.

This story contains information from previous Asbury Park Press stories.

Michael Amsel: (732) 557-5733 or mamsel@app.com

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