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Published: Tuesday, 5/8/2007

Accused mom gets lawyer


A South Toledo mother who, along with her boyfriend, is charged with locking their sons in cages and shocking the older one with an animal-training collar has been assigned a public defender in the high-profile case.

Jessica Botzko, 28, of 3019 Nebraska Ave., Lot 22, requested and was assigned a public defender yesterday during an appearance in Toledo Municipal Court.

She was found indigent by the court and Judge Francis X. Gorman continued her $50,000 bond on two counts of felony child endangering.

Ms. Botzko previously didn't qualify for a public defender because she earned too much as a dancer at the Deja Vu strip club on Byrne Road in South Toledo. However, she has since lost her job, authorities said.

Preliminary hearings are set for Thursday for her and her boyfriend, John Westover, 37, of the same address, who is facing the same charges. They both were being held in the Lucas County jail last night and previously declined requests for an interview.

Their two boys, ages 5 and 10, fled their mobile home May 1 and went to a house in the 300 block of Westwood Avenue to escape being locked in cages and, for the older boy, from being shocked, police said.

Police arrested Ms. Botzko and Mr. Westwood the next day and a seized a small wire cage with chain and padlocks from their home.

The boys are in foster care, said Dean Sparks, executive director of Lucas County Children Services. He said the agency will keep them together if possible and said they are still undergoing medical and educational assessments.

Police said the boys were in cages as a form of punishment and during times when their father was involved in drugs.

Mr. Westover also faces a misdemeanor child endangerment charge in Maumee after Maumee police found the children living in what they described as squalor in a Dussel Drive motel in 2004.

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