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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Adoptive parents' trial rescheduled

Michael and Sharen Gravelle of Huron County lost custody of their 11 adopted kids and face endangerment charges. Michael and Sharen Gravelle of Huron County lost custody of their 11 adopted kids and face endangerment charges.

NORWALK, Ohio - The trial of a rural Huron County couple who lost custody of their 11 adopted children was rescheduled yesterday to Nov. 14 because of the death of a family member.

The trial of Michael and Sharen Gravelle was scheduled for Sept. 12 in Huron Common Pleas Court, but Judge Earl McGimpsey said that date "is not a realistic trial date."

A death in the Gravelle family forced the postponement of a hearing on Monday that would decide whether evidence gathered during a Sept. 9 search of the couple's home should be suppressed. The Gravelles were indicted on felony charges of endangering children, perjury, and falsification, plus misdemeanor charges of endangering children.

Judge McGimpsey also addressed the couple's request to move the trial to another county because of publicity the case has generated in Huron County.

He said if publicity prevents seating a jury in Norwalk, the case will be rescheduled to Feb. 6 in another county. The judge said he would decide later whether to grant the motion to suppress evidence.

The Gravelles claim the search of their home violated the Fourth Amendment because it was not based on probable cause and "the information used to obtain the search warrant was false."

They said the search warrant was improperly based on a "hearsay statement" from a social worker who visited the home and some of that information was incorrect.

Huron County authorities removed the children after find-ing six wood-and-wire cages, plus a bedroom that had been barricaded with a dresser, in the Gravelles' home on St. John Road in Clarksfield Township.

Defense lawyers argue that the warrant, sought by Lt. Randall Sommers and signed by Norwalk Municipal Judge John S. Ridge, was based only on a statement by Jo Johnson, the investigator from the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services.

In the motion, the Gravelles' lawyers said incorrect information in the affidavit included the sizes and locations of the enclosed beds. All were on the second floor, and not on the first floor, as stated in the search warrant's affidavit. The beds were not 2 1/2 feet by 3 feet tall, but regular-sized beds.

The lawyers also cited the timing of the search, saying Huron County officials knew about the situation for two years before asking for the warrant, and thus conditions in the home did not constitute abuse.

Municipal Judge Timothy Cardwell cited the use of the cages for sleeping and punishment, testimony by three county-hired psychologists, and sexual-abuse allegations against Mr. Gravelle by his now-adult daughter.

In addition to the Gravelles' case, the judge agreed to delay the related trial of Elaine Thompson. No date was scheduled.

Ms. Thompson, a licensed independent social worker from Lorain County, faces multiple charges of aiding and abetting child endangerment and failure to report abuse or neglect.

Ms. Thompson had said she accepted the Gravelles' explanation that the cages were necessary to control the children's unruly behavior.

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