Gravelles pessimistic about quick return of children

Date: 2005-11-15

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

"I believe in miracles, but I'm not holding my breath," Michael Gravelle said yesterday.

Sharen Gravelle was equally pessimistic.

"I honestly don't know, but I don't believe Huron County is going to let it go -- us in particular," she said.

Huron County Juvenile Judge Timothy Cardwell is expected to rule this morning in his chambers on whether the Gravelles' 11 adopted special-needs children will be returned to their home at least until the permanent custodial case is heard Dec. 6, Court Administrator Chris Mushett said.

"I'm anxious to find out what happens. It will be a good preliminary indication of where things are going," attorney Ken Myers said.

Meanwhile, a local construction contractor was expected to arrive at the Gravelles' 2330 St. John Road home in Clarksfield Township to draft an estimate of reconstructing the enclosed beds in which the children slept before being removed in September by the Huron County Sheriff's Office and Department of Job and Family Services.

Myers filed a motion two weeks ago asking the court to return the children along with sworn statements from two social workers and Sharen Gravelle citing an emotional disturbance in the children's lives based on them being removed from their home, according to the motion.

The Huron County Prosecutor's Office, which is investigating criminal allegations that the couple kept the children in cages as punishment and for sleeping quarters, objected yesterday in writing as a response to Myers' request.

The Huron County Public Defender's Office, which was appointed by the court to represent the children, did not file a written response. However, public defender George Ford said, "We're going to encourage no change. We've seen no evidence that things should be changed."

In a letter submitted yesterday to Cardwell, Margaret Kern, court-appointed advocate for the children, wrote: "Due to the lack of family history, police reports, sheriff's reports, case files, investigating reports and the names of friends, family, relatives and contacts, I cannot make recommendations regarding the children's return or their visits with relatives."

Kern wrote that she has "been denied access to discovery for the past eight weeks by the prosecutor's office after repeatedly requesting it."

Kern also requested the documents and information from investigators at the sheriff's office and Department of Job and Family Services but was denied at the recommendation of the prosecutor's office, she wrote.

Myers said he has yet to receive the same documents.

Prosecutor Russ Leffler and assistant Prosecutor Jennifer DeLand refused comment on the matter yesterday.

As far as the sleeping arrangements for the children, the Gravelles have said they don't know whether they'll continue to use the enclosed beds, while Myers has asked the prosecutor for advice on the matter, he said.

DeLand did not respond to whether the beds should be discontinued as sleeping quarters, Myers said.

Yesterday, DeLand wrote in her response to Myers' request for the children's return, "The department (of Job and Family Services) strongly opposes the motions to return the children, or in the alternative extended visitation.

"Among other things, mother and father have not indicated any willingness to cease the use of the enclosures."

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