Sheriff: Cages used to punish

Date: 2005-09-20

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

Investigator's from the sheriff's office met yesterday with Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler yesterday to discuss the progress of the probe into Michael and Sharen Gravelle's treatment of the children. In a statement released after the meeting, Sutherland referred to the couple's actions as "unacceptable."

"Confinement in what the adoptive parents call Ôboxes' occurred not just at night, but during the day as well," the statement read. "Although most of the Ôboxes' were not locked, the children were afraid to leave their Ôboxes' at night even to use the bathroom because an alarm would sound and the parents would react in anger."

No charges were filed following the meeting, but, according to Sutherland's statement, subpoenas have been issued for the children's medical and psychiatric records.

"Preliminary verbal reports show the children are in good physical health," the sheriff said, adding the prosecutor's office will determine the extent of emotional damage to the children before, "filing the proper charges."

Meanwhile, the couple's adult daughter, Lisa Gravelle is awaiting a home study to be conducted at her residence as her parents have requested the Huron County Juvenile Court remand custody of all 11 children -- who are now spread out over four foster families, according to Juvenile Court Administrator Chris Mushett.

According to voter registration records, Lisa Gravelle shares a four-bedroom home at 1186 Peru-Olena Road just outside of Norwalk with D. Ray Barker, 35, who has an extensive record of drug and alcohol-related offenses.

Baker was recently convicted in the Norwalk Municipal Court for driving under the influence and was placed on probation for five years, according to court records.

The court ordered Barker to pay $565 in fines and court costs as part of the April 1 sentencing, while the 60-day jail term was suspended, the records stated.

Other convictions Barker received include traffic offenses, driving under a suspended license, possession of drugs, marijuana; possession of drug paraphernalia and four driving under the influence convictions, according to court records. Barker was convicted of the four other DUIs from 1996 to 2003, records stated.

Court records also indicated Lisa Gravelle pleaded no contest to passing a bad check in 2000.

Neighbors say the couple are raising Barker's three sons -- all between the ages of 10 and 16.

A time frame hasn't been released on the home-study, which will be conducted by the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services, Mushett said.

Laura Heimrich, manager of Fieldcrest Mobile Home Park, where the couple lives and where Lisa Gravelle once lived in a different home said Lisa was evicted from her former home after failing to pay more than $1,000 in rent. Heimrich also alleged Lisa left the house in "downright filthy" conditions after being evicted in late 2003.

Heimrich's niece, Cindy Jenkins, said she moved into the home after the eviction and said the house was filled with garbage and that there were feces on the floor.

"It was gross," said Jenkins. "She might be a really nice person, but she's not a very good housekeeper."

Heimrich agreed.

"It took (Jenkins) over a month to clean it," she said. "It was just downright filthy."

No one answered the door at Lisa Gravelle and Barker's home yesterday or Friday, and the telephone has been busy for the last several days.

hrcfowler@aol.com

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