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Published: Wednesday, 11/29/2006

Girl testifies about 'whopping' in caged-kids case

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NORWALK, Ohio Two former foster children of Michael and Sharen Gravelle testified this morning that Mr. Gravelle would punish them by taking them out behind the barn and hitting them with sticks, switches, and in one case, a wooden two-by-four.

The brother and sister left the home seven years ago. They are not two of the 11 children removed from the Gravelle s home on Sept. 9, 2005 after child-care workers found cages in the home where children were being kept.

The Gravelles are each charged with 24 counts of risking the health and safety of some of their 11 adopted children. They are being tried in Huron County Common Pleas Court.

The couple has pleaded not guilty.

The girl, who was not identified in court, said Mr. Gravelle would take her to the barn for a whopping" for simple stuff.

Her brother, 11, also not identified, said he was beaten by Mr. Gravelle with a five-foot-long two-by-four piece of wood.

Asked by Prosecutor Russ Leffler why he was beaten by Mr. Gravelle, the boy replied: Not following the rules.

The girl, who is in the 7th grade and living in foster home in Ohio, also testified how one of the other children in the Gravelles home was forced to sleep in the bath tub.

She and her brother, who has lived in five fosters homes in the past seven years, testified about the wire and wood cages they were forced to sleep in. The girl said the caged were equipped with locks and alarms that would sound real loud when they opened them a night to go to the bathroom.

Opening the morning s trial, the defense resumed its cross-examination of Jo Ellen Johnson, the chief investigator for the county Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Co-defense attorney Richard Drucker pointed out in his cross-examination that Ms. Johnson failed to use a tape recorder and a camera to document what she found in the home.

The county sheriff s office later in the day took pictures of the cages. They were presented to the jury as part of the state s evidence.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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