Gravelle hearing concludes, ruling due in two weeks

Date: 2005-12-11

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

After five days of testimony it will be up to Huron County Juvenile Judge Timothy Carwell to rule whether the Gravelles will be remanded custody of their 11 adopted children. The attorneys were asked by Carwell to submit written closing arguments to the court by Friday afternoon, he said.

Carwell expects to make a decision in two weeks. If the allegations are not proved, Michael and Sharen Gravelle could regain custody of their children.

The children were removed from the couple's home in Clarksfield Township on Sept. 9 after an investigator from the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services confirmed some children were sleeping in homemade bunk beds enclosed with chicken wire and wooden boards rigged with audio alarm systems.

During a confrontational cross-examination, Huron County Juvenile Prosecutor Jennifer DeLand questioned social worker Elaine Thompson's credentials as a licensed social worker and challenged what qualified her to perform neurotherapy on some of the Gravelle children.

Thompson told the prosecutor there was no certification available for neurotherapy, but she attended a seminar and had read literature on the matter.

As far as the enclosed beds, DeLand questioned whether Thompson had reported the enclosures to anyone.

"Did you report the beds or not? It's a yes or no question. Please answer it yes or no," DeLand said loudly.

Thompson replied that she didn't report the beds to anyone, nor had she included the information in the notes she regularly kept on her sessions with the children.

"Are you a mandated reporter of child abuse as part of your licensure with the state," asked DeLand.

"Yes," replied Thompson.

Thompson has maintained that many of the children were afflicted with Reactive Attachment Disorder, despite the state's three expert witnesses who testified the children do not have the disorder.

Much of yesterday's testimony questioned various disciplinary measure and whether Thompson had either recommended or approved of the methods.

Thompson testified that many of the disciplinary methods used by the Gravelles could have been perceived as overly strict to a person outside of the home who didn't have knowledge of the children's behavioral issues.

One of the Gravelle's children testified Thursday that his parents were good parents but had sent him to his enclosed bed for a month at one point for stealing food and had at another point sanctioned him to a bathroom, sleeping in a bathtub for 81 days.

"I was extremely pleased with her testimony," said Ken Myers, attorney for the Gravelle's. "I think she's very articulate, very knowledgeable both on the subject matter and these children."

Myers said he believes the judge will have difficulty finding the Gravelle's guilty of abuse, neglect, or dependency.

"I don't think a finding of abuse, neglect or dependency will be as easy as many people may have initially thought," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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