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Published: Thursday, 10/22/2009

2 Ohio 'caged kids' sue adoptive parents


CLEVELAND — Two Ohio teenagers forced by their adoptive parents to sleep in cages have sued the couple and caseworkers who arranged the adoptions.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Cleveland on behalf of 18-year-old Sharen Torrence and 17-year-old Michael Gravelle.

Their adoptive parents, Michael and Sharen Gravelle, named the children after them. The couple are now serving two-year prison terms for abusing some of their 11 adopted special-needs children.

The suit also targets caseworkers and the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services in Cincinnati. It said the Gravelles were unfit to be parents and should never have gotten custody of the children.

Kenneth Myers, an attorney for the parents, said Thursday he hadn't seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment.

Julie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Hamilton County prosecutor's office, declined to comment. The office handles legal matters for the county agency.

The lawsuit seeks $25,000 in damages, a standard amount. Any actual damages awarded could be more or less.

The lawsuit said the defendants "abandoned the children — and nine others who were subsequently placed in the Gravelle home — and failed to protect them from terrible, unthinkable harm."

In August, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the appeal by Michael and Sharen Gravelle challenging their convictions. The appeal said their search and seizure rights were violated by Huron County sheriff's deputies who looked through their home outside Norwalk about 60 miles west of Cleveland.

The parents also claimed they couldn't get a fair hearing after pictures of the cages — wood and wire enclosures — were released to the media.

The Gravelle children, who suffered from problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating nonfood items, ranged in age from 1 to 14 when authorities removed them from their home in September 2005.

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