"Inexplicable" act sends foster parents to jail

Date: 2006-07-21

By KIM PREDHAM

Staff Writer

The abuse of a mentally disabled foster child — who weighed 21 pounds when authorities found her — was "inexplicable," a defense attorney for one of her foster parents said yesterday.

"The situation was these were people who had good intentions ... I guess they had always hoped that something would happen to turn it around," said Steven Secare, attorney for Beachwood resident Ernest Davison, who has admitted to turning a blind eye to the abuse.

Neither Ernest nor his wife, Cynthia, have an explanation, Secare said, for how care of the 5-year-old girl got so out of control that authorities found her malnourished and suffering from apparent physical and mental abuse in December 2004.

But the reason did not matter yesterday, when husband and wife were both sentenced to prison for their roles in the abuse.

Cynthia, 50, wept during her sentencing for the aggravated assault of the girl and apologized when given a chance to speak.

Superior Court Judge Peter J. Giovine sentenced her to four years in prison. She will not be eligible for parole until she serves 85 percent of that sentence.

Cynthia Davison previously admitted that she recklessly caused serious bodily injury to the foster child by withholding food from her and restraining her, Supervising Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Deborah Hanlon-Schron said.

She will not be eligible for parole until she serves 85 percent of her sentence.

Ernest Davison has admitted that he ignored his wife's abuse, Secare said, and pleaded guilty to endangering the girl's welfare. When given a chance to speak, he apologized profusely.

Giovine sentenced him to three years in prison.

The Davisons are a religious couple, who just got involved in a situation that spun out of control, Secare said.

They had hoped to create a special ministry for special-needs children, which would have given them a home and access to good medical care, a 2003 Asbury Park Press article reported. Indeed, authorities found two adopted children and a second foster child when they went to the Davisons' Spruce Street home in 2004.

"He (Ernest Davison) served his country" as a Marine, Secare said. "He's a good man."

But authorities, acting on an anonymous tip nearly two years ago, found the Davisons' foster child clearly underweight and abused.

The girl weighed only 21 pounds when authorities removed her from the home on Dec. 29, 2004. She also had injuries consistent with being restrained for considerable periods of time, authorities have said.

Giovine called pictures of the girl some of the worst he had ever seen during his time on the bench, Hanlon-Schron said.

The girl was subsequently hospitalized for care and evaluation and recovered "very, very quickly," Hanlon-Schron said. She is fine now, and being monitored by the state's Division of Youth and Family Services, Hanlon-Schron said.

The other children were also removed from the Davisons' care after their arrest, authorities have said.

Hanlon-Schron declined to comment at length on the sentencing, but she agreed with Giovine's assessment that the girl's pictures were powerful evidence.

"The plea was in the interest of justice," Hanlon-Schron said.

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