FINDLAY - A local teen who tainted cupcakes at a church event with a prescription sedative was released this week after serving a handful of the 30 days he was sentenced to spend in the Wood County juvenile detention center.
Joseph Cordell, 15, who entered the detention facility Nov. 9, was released Monday on the instructions of visiting Judge Stephen Ruyle, who sentenced the boy in Hancock County Juvenile Court.
The youth sickened 17 people June 22 during a luncheon at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Perrysburg by spiking the cupcakes with Ambien, a drug for treating sleep disorders. He pleaded guilty to a charge of inducing panic, equivalent to a first-degree misdemeanor, and was found delinquent Aug. 17.
Judge Ruyle, of Defiance County Juvenile Court, could not be reached yesterday to explain his decision. But Hancock County officials who were in court for the Nov. 9 sentencing said the judge announced a 30-day term from the bench to scare the youth but made it clear later that he would be released early.
“That was an aside, yes, that was not on the record,” said Betty Slough, chief probation officer for Hancock County Juvenile Court.
Ms. Slough said Judge Ruyle decided on a lesser sentence for the boy because of pleas for leniency from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Perrysburg, where the poisoning incident occurred June 22. The 17 people made ill by the altered cupcakes wrote to authorities requesting a light sentence for young Cordell.
“I think the judge wanted to get the point across to the boy that what he did was very serious, a potentially lethal thing, but he would bow to the wishes of the church,” she said. “But he still felt the boy needed some punitive punishment. ... He sentenced the boy to 30 days in open court, and the boy was in shock. The boy was physically and emotionally affected by that sentence.”
K.C. Collette, a Hancock County assistant prosecutor, said he understood that young Cordell would serve just a few days.
“I do remember being aware that in no way was he going to make the boy aware that he was going to be released in less than 30 days, and everybody agreed that was a good thing,” he said.
The prosecutor said he had no problem with the early release, though he said that for procedural reasons, he would have preferred a sentence that called for release at the judge's discretion.
“The judge always has the right to amend his order, and to release someone,” Mr. Collette said, adding that he would look at the paperwork and consider requesting that it be amended to reflect the early release.
“It would be a better thing to clean up the record,” he said.
Mr. Collette noted that the boy could serve the remaining time if he got into legal trouble again.
“That 27 days is still out there. ... These are days that he still could be liable to serve if there were any other difficulty,” he said. “It's a pretty good deterrent to have out there. I think the fact that he got the opportunity to see the inside of the detention center was a real eye-opener.”