The beatings that Willie Shoulders, Jr., inflicted on his children, including a 7-year-old boy who died shortly after he was taken from their home, went far beyond discipline, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge said yesterday.
In sentencing Shoulders to four years in prison, Judge Charles Wittenberg said the welts and scars found on his children were evidence of physical abuse, not discipline, as he claimed.
"The defendant beat the children with an electrical cord. He did it severely, often, and harshly enough to cause multiple scars on the legs, buttocks, and backs of the children," the judge said.
The charges stem from an investigation that began after Ju'Nathan, 7, collapsed on Feb. 11 in Shoulder's home at 3535 Hilltop Blvd. He died later that day after being taken to Toledo Hospital.
Ju'Nathan's 6-year-old brother, Ju'Zarian, and 3-year-old sister, Ju'Kizja, were found to have multiple welts and scars, and they were taken from the home and placed in the care of Lucas County Children Services.
Michael Loisel, a county assistant prosecutor, said the abuse began about four months before the child's death.
"Discipline and abuse are two different things," he said.
Shoulders, 27, entered pleas of no contest and was found guilty on Nov. 27 on two counts of child endangering for physically abusing Ju'Nathan and Ju'Zarian.
He was also indicted on child endangering in connection with the youngest child, but that charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
He was not charged in connection with the death of Ju'Nathan because the child's cause of death could not be established by the county coroner's office.
Investigators said Shoulders disciplined his sons the day before Ju'Nathan died for urinating on themselves, and he admitted that he had "whipped" Ju'Nathan seven times for the incident.
Shoulders struggled to hold back tears as he read a statement he wrote on a legal pad in the courtroom while waiting to be sentenced.
He said he disciplined his children by "God's will'' to show them a better place and life.
"I was overwhelmed with problems. I am deeply sorry for what has happened. It was never my intent to harm my children in any way," he said.
Shoulders had a prior misdemeanor conviction for child endangering.
According to prosecutors and the defendant's attorney, Jane Roman, the children were returned to the custody of the defendant and his wife after he was sentenced and convicted in that case.
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