Eleven Children Found Caged in Ohio Home

WAKEMAN, Ohio - Sheriff's deputies removed 11 children from a home where they were locked in cages less than 3 1/2 feet high, authorities said.

The children's adoptive and foster parents, Mike and Sharen Gravelle, denied that they'd abused or neglected the children during a custody hearing Monday in Huron County. No charges had been filed as of Monday night.

"The impression that we got was that they felt it was OK," said Lt. Randy Sommers of the Huron County Sheriff's Office.

The Gravelles said a psychiatrist recommended they make the children ages 1 to 14, with conditions that included autism and fetal alcohol syndrome sleep in the cages at night. The cages were stacked in bedrooms on the second floor of their house, said prosecutor Russell Leffler, who was reviewing the case.

The children were found by a children's services investigator on Friday when he stopped by the Gravelles' home outside Wakeman, about 50 miles west of Cleveland. Deputies returned to the house that evening.

Some of the cages were rigged with alarms, Sommers said; others had heavy furniture blocking their doors. The children didn't have blankets or pillows.

One of the boys said he'd slept in the cage for three years, Sommers said.

The children were placed with four foster families Monday.

A woman who identified herself as Sharen Gravelle's mother but refused to give her name said the children were happy and loved. "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.

The Gravelles do not have a listed telephone number.

Sommers said there were no apparent signs the children had been malnourished or beaten, but they were sent to a hospital for examination. Their conditions were not available Monday.

In March, a couple who had recently moved from Ohio to Florida was charged with neglect when their adopted teenager was discovered malnourished in a crib-like cage. The then-17-year-old weighed 49 pounds, investigators said.

The twin-bed-sized crib had been prescribed when the boy was much younger and lived in Ohio. It had been fitted with a lid, chains and a padlock, investigators said.