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Judge rules pair abused children by caging them

NORWALK, Ohio -- A couple who adopted 11 children with health and behavioral problems abused some of the youngsters by making them sleep in wooden cages without pillows or mattresses, a judge ruled yesterday.

The children will remain in foster care until juvenile court Judge Timothy Cardwell holds a hearing on who should get custody.

Their adoptive parents, Michael and Sharen Gravelle, have not been charged with a crime and denied abusing the youngsters. They said they built the cages in 2003 to protect the children from themselves and one another.

''We love our children very much and we will continue to do everything possible to get them home," the couple said in a statement read by their lawyer, Ken Myers. He said the couple held out hope that the judge would return the children to them under court supervision.

Cardwell dismissed allegations that the Gravelles neglected the children, saying there was no evidence that the couple failed to feed and clothe the youngsters. But he said that making them sleep in the cages constituted abuse.

The children, ages 1 to 15, have problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating dirt. The judge said their psychological, behavioral, and health problems became too much for the couple to handle.

''In this overwhelmed state, the Gravelles made a series of poor parental decisions that were detrimental to the children and led to an appropriate intervention by the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services and the Huron County sheriff," the judge wrote.

The children were taken from the Gravelles in September after a social services investigator visited the home.

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