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Published: Thursday, 10/18/2007

South Toledo father in caged kid case gets four years

BLADE STAFF

The South Toledo man charged with locking one of his young sons in a cage and shocking him with an animal collar was found guilty of child endangerment and sentenced to four years in prison Thursday afternoon in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

John Westover, 37, was set to go on trial next week on two counts of child endangering and one count of possessing criminal tools. He entered pleas of no contests Thursday to the two counts of child endangering and was sentenced to four years on each charge; the sentences are to run concurrently.

Judge Linda Jennings dismissed the final count of possession of criminal tools. Westover had faced a maximum of 11 years in prison if found guilty of all of the original charges.

His girlfriend, Jessica Botzko, 28, was sentenced to four years in prison last week after being found guilty of child endangering. She pleaded no contest last month for her involvement in the long-term abuse of her sons that included locking the older boy in an animal cage.

Authorities said the couple would punish their sons ages 5 and 10, by withholding food and even withholding their Christmas presents, which were found by police, still unwrapped, when they searched the home in May. The older boy was subjected to confinement in an animal cage as well as shocks from an electronic collar as a punishment.

The boys were discovered after they left their mobile home May 1 in the 300 block of Westwood Avenue. They told authorities about the conditions at home and that their father manufactured crack cocaine in front of them. Westover and Botzko were arrested the next day.

Their sons have been in foster care since the arrests. A hearing is scheduled for later this month to determine if family members from out of state will gain custody.

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



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