Lee Anne and Christopher Henry were once named Family of the Year for having taken in foster children.
On the day a former Toledo foster mother and her husband were to go on trial for the alleged abuse of their adopted daughter, the woman entered a plea agreement Monday that led to her conviction on a misdemeanor charge.
Lee Anne Henry, 60, of 3001 Brock Dr. entered an Alford plea to failure to provide for a functionally impaired person, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.
Prosecutors said they would ask Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Myron Duhart to dismiss two felony child-endangerment counts against Mrs. Henry and a single child-endangerment count against Christopher Henry, 61, when Mrs. Henry is sentenced Feb. 25.
In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit to committing a crime but acknowledges evidence is sufficient for a conviction and that trial could result in a more severe sentence. The court treats it as a guilty plea.
As Judge Duhart explained that an Alford plea means a defendant denies committing the crime, Mrs. Henry said, “I do.”
Frank Spryszak, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, told the court that between September, 2005, and July, 2011, Mrs. Henry failed at times to properly care for her adopted daughter who has cerebral palsy — failing to get her wheelchair repaired, sending her to school in diapers that were too small or without properly cleaning her, and forcing the girl to take baths and perform other tasks at home that she was unable to do without assistance.
Washington Local Schools staff contacted Lucas County Children Services so many times with concerns about the Henrys’ daughter, Mr. Spryszak said, that Mrs. Henry eventually pulled her out of classes and home-schooled her.
Mr. Henry stood next to his wife during the brief hearing, holding her hand or resting his hand on her back.
Mrs. Henry’s attorney, Rick Kerger, said afterward he was pleased with the resolution of the case, which began in 2011 and was delayed in part by Judge Duhart’s decision to disqualify her original attorney from the case because that attorney had previously been appointed as a special advocate for former foster children in the Henrys’ care.
She entered the Alford plea, he said, because “she’s got other children at home, and she can’t run the risk, for them, of being convicted” of the more serious charges.
Mr. Kerger said the couple took care of more than 100 foster children over the years, and while they are no longer foster parents, they have seven adopted children at home.
Mr. Spryszak said prosecutors offered the plea agreement because some witnesses, including a former foster child in the Henrys’ care, had recanted statements they’d made about what happened to the victim in the case, and because they could not prove the victim had suffered “serious physical harm,” which is a statutory requirement for a felony child-endangerment conviction.
“From the way it was indicted to the way it ended up, certainly is a substantial reduction. However, the evidentiary issues we would have had to overcome at trial validates this plea agreement,” Mr. Spryszak said.
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