Gravelles found guilty

Date: 2006-12-23

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

The jury returned the verdict yesterday morning in Huron County Common Pleas Court against both Gravelles for two misdemeanor counts of child endangering, five misdemeanor counts of child abuse and four felony counts of child endangering.

"They appear to be very disappointed with the verdict. They're not pleased," said attorney Ken Myers, who represented Sharen Gravelle.

The jury acquitted the couple of six misdemeanor child endangering charges, three misdemeanor child abuse charges and four felony child endangering charges, according to court records.

Richard Drucker, who represented Michael Gravelle, referred the verdict as "weird" yesterday as the verdict didn't reflect a uniform opinion of using the enclosed beds, he said.

The jurors were not available for comment after the verdicts.

The prosecution claimed the use of the beds, which they called "cages," was abusive, as was the treatment of some of the children.

Each of the charges against the couple specifically named one child and described various treatments the child faced while living at the Clarksfield Township home with the Gravelles.

The convictions reflected treatment of the eldest child, who testified he was forced to stay in not only an enclosed bed, but also a bathroom for extended periods of time, and they also reflected the Gravelles treatment of a child with Down syndrome, said the attorneys.

Other children who were forced to stay in the enclosures, or cages, were also represented in the verdict, the attorneys said.

Myers and Drucker said they were puzzled as to the feelings of the jurors as to why some of the charges concerning the use of the beds were dismissed.

"It makes me think the enclosed beds weren't really a problem," Drucker said.

"We're very disappointed with the verdict. We didn't feel our clients were guilty of any of the offenses," Drucker said.

Michael and Sharen Gravelle refused comment as they were ushered out of the courthouse flocked by their attorneys and reporters. "They have no comment. Please honor that," Myers said.

The couple didn't show much reaction as they sat at a table in the courtroom while the verdict was read. Judge Earl McGimpsey told the couple they weren't required to stand because the reading of the verdicts was lengthy. Sharen Gravelle wiped at her face occasionally as her head was bent over the table, while she appeared to be reading or writing.

Michael Gravelle stared at the judge with his face propped on his hand throughout most of the verdict reading.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor's office celebrated yesterday's verdicts. "I think the state is very pleased with the decision of the jurors. The state fought for these children. It was the right thing to do. ... Prosecutor Russ Leffler will be very pleased," said Assistant Prosecutor Daivia Kasper as she left the courthouse yesterday.

"The jurors gave careful consideration," she said, adding the state was "hoping for felonies" on behalf of the children.

The foster mother caring for one of the eldest of the boys, who testified that he was made to stay in a bathroom for 81 days, also celebrated the news yesterday.

"It's awesome," said the foster mother, who was in court and called her family with the news. "He's going to be happy. He's going to be very happy."

As she was leaving, she was overheard telling Margaret Kern, the court advocate for the children, "All (the boy) is hoping for is that they get put in a cage like he did."

"This last year has finally brought validation to (the children's) lives and made it possible for them to regain their dignity, respect and right to be children. These are great kids with unbelievable strength and courage who are demonstrating the ability to trust again. ... They are survivors," Kern said.

"These children's stories are painfully disturbing and we must all be committed to never allow these failures to occur again," Kern said.

The court continued the Gravelles' bond and scheduled sentencing for Feb. 12.

The children were removed from the Gravelles' home in September 2005 and placed in foster care. The couple had their parental rights severed in March by Huron County Juvenile Judge Timothy Cardwell.

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