Tuesday, September 13, 2005

 

11 Children Are Found Locked in Small Cages in an Ohio Home


WAKEMAN, Ohio, Sept. 12 (AP) - Sheriff's deputies found 11 children locked in cages less than three-and-a-half feet high inside a home, but the adult couple living in the home denied that they had abused or neglected the children, the authorities said Monday.

A judge put the children, ages 1 to 14, in foster homes.

They were found in nine cages built into the walls of the house near this small city in northern Ohio, the Huron County Sheriff's Office said. The children had no blankets or pillows, and the cages were rigged with alarms that sounded if opened, Lt. Randy Sommers said.

The children told the authorities that they slept in the cages - 40 inches high and 40 inches deep - at night. Doors to some of the cages were blocked with heavy furniture.

The couple living in the home, Sharen and Mike Gravelle, are adoptive or foster parents for all 11 children, officials said. Prosecutors were reviewing the case, but no charges had been filed as of Monday night.

A children's services investigator saw one of the children in a cage on Friday, Lieutenant Sommers said. The sheriff's office obtained a warrant and returned to the house that evening and removed the children.

The Gravelles do not have a listed telephone number.

A woman who identified herself as Mrs. Gravelle's mother but would not give her name said the children were happy.

"This year they have played and had fun and laughed like no other children have, which they have never been able to do," she said.

At a hearing, the judge placed the children in the custody of the Department of Job and Family Services, and officials placed them in four foster homes, said Chris Mushett, a juvenile-court administrator.

Appearing with a lawyer at the hearing, the Gravelles denied they had abused or neglected the children.

Russell Leffler, a county prosecutor, said the children had various disabilities, including autism.

Wakeman, with a population of about 1,000, is about 50 miles west of Cleveland.


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