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Published: Friday, 12/1/2006

Woman who set nephew on fire given 4-year term

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Overton Overton
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A 23-year-old Toledo woman will spend four years in prison for what a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge said was "unthinkable" and one of the "most cruel acts" that could be committed on a child.

To teach her 8-year-old nephew, I'unique Barber, a lesson for playing with matches and a candle, Demetria Overton dripped alcohol on the boy's shirt and set the clothing on fire.

I'unique suffered second and third-degree burns in the incident July 23 at 2113 Marlow Rd. He was hospitalized for more than two weeks and may be scarred for life.

"There is no question that physical harm occurred," Judge Ruth Ann Franks said. "To use the word disturbing doesn't describe those events. It would be unthinkable to have it done to anyone."

Overton, who was convicted of felony child endangering, will serve her sentence at the Marysville Correctional Institution.

The mother of three children, Overton was the guardian for I'unique. The children were removed from the defendant's care after the incident.

Judge Franks said the child will have the scars from the burns for the rest of his life, carrying the criminal conduct of the defendant forever.

After the incident, Overton moved from her home on Maplewood Avenue into the Sparrow's Nest, a women's shelter operated by the Cherry Street Mission, to receive counseling.

In asking for a sentence of community control, the defendant's attorney, Drew Griffith, said his client and her brother were abused as children by their mother.

"However, it's not excuse for what occurred," he said. "She is exceptionally remorseful over this."

Before being sentenced, Overton struggled with her emotions to tell Judge Franks that she taking full responsibility for her nephew's injuries.

Through tears, she said her enrollment in the Sparrow's Nest program was providing structure in her life that had been missing.

"This is never going to happen again," she said. "This has taught me not to be like my mom."

In recommending four years of incarceration, Assistant Prosecutor Lori Olender said Overton was making positive steps to improve her life by joining the rehabilitation program.



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