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With boy's photo in courtroom, judge tells killer parents: 'I want you to see him'


KEVIN GRASHA   Cincinnati Enquirer

As John and Katherine Snyder were sentenced to possibly spend the rest of their lives in prison, a large, framed photograph of the boy they were convicted of murdering was positioned on a stand in the courtroom.

The photo showed a smiling boy, 7 or 8 years old, missing a few front teeth. The couple adopted the boy, Adam, from China in 2016, the same year prosecutors say the Snyders killed him.

"I want you to see him," Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Wende Cross told the Snyders at their sentencing Thursday.

The husband and wife, who are both 52, faced the judge and the photograph of Adam as they stood in the courtroom, their hands shackled behind their backs. The Snyders wore jail uniforms because they have been held at the county jail since being found guilty Nov. 17 of murder, felonious assault and child abuse charges.

Most of the child abuse charges involved two other children they adopted. A total of five adopted children from China − all had serious medical problems − lived in their home at the time of Adam's death. The Snyders also were found guilty of abusing one of their biological children, who according to prosecutors, weighed less than 30 pounds at age 14.

During Thursday's sentencing, Cross spoke directly to the couple. She pointed out that no witnesses testified during five weeks of testimony about either of the Snyders telling any of the children that they loved them.

"Did you even have a funeral for Adam?" Cross asked.

There was no funeral.

Instead, there was coldness. Even disdain.

According to a neighbor's testimony, John Snyder told the neighbor, who had expressed concern about Adam when he was hospitalized: "That's OK. No one likes him anyway."

A few weeks after Adam's death, prosecutors said Katherine Snyder told a foster parent who was caring for the other children that Adam was a "disgusting child" and that she wished they hadn't adopted him.

Cross sentenced John Snyder to 29 years to life in prison. She sentenced Katherine Snyder to 31 years to life.

Both are 52 and won't be eligible for parole until they serve their minimum terms of 29 and 31 years. They declined to make statements in court Thursday.

Assistant Prosecutor Stacy Lefton told reporters afterward that the Snyders "wanted to pretend that they loved these children."

The sentence, Lefton added, "is appropriate, given their real feelings − not what they wanted everyone to see."

Head injury

Adam Snyder died on Oct. 5, 2016, eight months after he moved into the home. The cause of death was a severe head injury that prosecutors said was caused by Katherine possibly throwing him to the floor of their Springfield Township home. Prosecutors said John Snyder was complicit in the abuse and in Adam’s death. He was accused of doing nothing to help the 8-year-old boy.

The forensic pathologist who performed Adam’s autopsy described him as very thin, with very little muscle mass. He also had bed sores on his body.

The Snyders, who court documents say moved out of state and most recently lived in Delaware, lost custody of all the children they adopted.

That decision came in October after a seven-year battle in Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

The other children were removed from the Snyders' custody the day after Adam's death. Since 2018, they have lived in New York state with Katherine's sister and her husband, court documents say. Prosecutors said the children have thrived in that home.

Even so, "they've lost their childhood," Prosecutor Melissa Powers told reporters. "They have a lot of healing to do."

Snyders fought for custody of other children

Documents say the Snyders were "hostile and uncooperative" toward caseworkers from Hamilton County Job and Family Services, dating back to 2016, refusing to discuss or sign a plan that could have led to reunification. The couple refused to remain in direct contact with JFS "for a number of years."

Also according to the documents: "In 2016 and 2017, when limited meetings did occur, the (Snyders) were hostile, aggressive and argumentative."

The documents also say that the Snyders made unsubstantiated sexual abuse complaints about a foster parent, as well as caregivers "in an attempt to sabotage the children's placement."

The judge in that custody case said the Snyders repeatedly withheld medical treatment and food from the children.

The Snyders were indicted on charges including murder and child abuse in 2022.

2023 Nov 30