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Published: Friday, 9/21/2007

Parents of caged kids sue Huron County


NORWALK, Ohio - A couple convicted of forcing some of their 11 adopted special-needs children to sleep in cages has filed a federal lawsuit against county social workers and other officials, accusing them of illegally entering the home.

Michael and Sharen Gravelle, who were each sentenced in February to two years in prison for child endangering and child abuse, said Huron County social workers and sheriff's deputies violated their constitutional rights when officials removed the children from the home in 2005 after receiving a tip about children sleeping in cages.

Ken Myers, the Gravelles' attorney, said the couple have been penalized for their behavior and now county officials should be "held accountable for their actions."

Messages seeking comment were left yesterday at the Huron County sheriff's office and the Department of Job and Family Services.

The Gravelles have suffered emotional distress and the loss of their reputation, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court. They are asking the court to make the county compensate them, including their attorney fees. The couple contend that the wood-and-wire enclosures were meant to protect unruly and destructive youngsters, who were removed from the Gravelles' home in Wakeman, about 50 miles east of Toledo.

A Juvenile Court judge ordered the children to be placed for adoption in March, 2006. Mr. Myers said he appealed that decision this week to the U.S. Supreme Court after Ohio's top court declined to hear the case.

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