Fairfield County parents who put their 4-year-old daughter to bed in a homemade, steel-wire-mesh cage were sentenced to suspended prison terms today.
Common Pleas Judge Richard E. Berens sentenced Jamie M. Curnell and Russell D. “Dave” Terry, of Pleasantville, after they each pleaded guilty to three counts of child endangering in a negotiated plea agreement. The offense is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of three years in prison.
Both were sentenced to 18 months on one of the counts, to be served consecutively to 30 months on each of the other two counts. But they will not have to serve the time if they complete five years of probation.
He also sentenced both parents to county jail time but said he might not impose that time following January and May reviews of how they are doing on probation, including continuing counseling and cooperating with Fairfield County Child Protective Services.
Curnell, 33, and Terry, 36, told the judge they built an enclosure around Alyssa Terry’s bunk bed because she was getting up and wandering at night. Alyssa had been found near the kitchen stove and the wood-burning stove and also once at 5 a.m. outside the house standing close to Rt. 188, they said.
“I thought it was my job to protect her,” Curnell told the judge at today’s sentencing hearing. “I know now that the way we went about it should have been different. At the time, we did what we had to do to protect our daughter.”
The couple built the enclosure just before Memorial Day last year, Curnell said. “I never thought of it as a cage. I was trying to protect my daughter.”
Deputies discovered the homemade cage, which could be locked and enclosed a bare, dirty mattress on a bunk bed, when they responded to a domestic-violence complaint at the couple’s house about 1:30 a.m. on July 10, 2012. The girl was up and not in the bunk bed when the deputies arrived.
“I was afraid of taking any chances,” Terry told the judge. “I tried to protect my daughter. I feel bad about what happened. Trying to protect my daughter, I busted up my family.”
Alyssa, now 5, and the couple’s son, who is nearly 2, are living with Terry’s uncle. The children have supervised visits with their parents for eight hours weekly. Curnell’s two other sons, who are 8 and 14, are living with their paternal grandmother.
Child Protective Services is working with Curnell and Terry on a family-reunification plan.
By Mary Beth Lane - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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