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State Witness Calls Caged Teen Case Worst Child Abuse She's Seen


State Witness Calls Caged Teen Case Worst Child Abuse She's Seen

POSTED: 5:09 pm EDT March 14, 2008
UPDATED: 6:29 pm EDT March 14, 2008

A state witness on Friday took the stand at the sentencing hearing for woman who kept her teenage son caged in her Jacksonville home and called the incident the worst case of child abuse she's ever seen.

Last month, Brenda Sullivan pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated child abuse. Prosecutors agreed to drop lesser child-neglect charges.On Friday, her sentencing trial began.

She and her late husband had claimed they put the adopted boy in a caged crib at night on the advice of a doctor in Ohio, where the couple once lived.Prosecutors said the boy at age 17 weighed less than 49 pounds when he was taken from the Sullivans' custody.

A police report said the boy was starving and suffered psychosocial dwarfism -- a lack of physical and emotional growth caused by abuse.

Authorities also say he was forced to wear a diaper.In court, assistant state attorney Julie Schlax said Sullivan constructed a wood lid to put on top of a Pedia-Crib and she claimed Sullivan would lock her son inside.

"She did not give them education and love, but most importantly she starved them," Sullivan said.

Prosecutors said Sullivan's adopted son weighed 49 pounds when he moved in with her at age 7. In 2005, 10 years later, they said he weighed less than 49 pounds.

Since her arrest, Sullivan has insisted a doctor prescribed the Pedia-Crib to keep what she called her unruly son under control.

That doctor took the stand on Friday and told the court the crib was recommended, but he said that was only for at night, for short periods of time when her son was a child. The doctor also said the crib never should have a homemade lid on it or been used for a teenager.

The lawyer appointed by the state to oversee Sullivan's children told the judge this is the worst case of abuse she has ever seen."They will never live a normal life. They will never live a life free from fear. They will never cease to be haunted by the memories of what was done to them," said guardian ad-litem Janet Wilkerson.

Prosecutors said the teen has made remarkable strides since being removed from Sullivan's home.Sullivan faces up to 20 years in prison.

2008 Mar 14