Caged children well fed, behaved

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Clarksfield Township, Ohio – The children looked ordinary enough to neighbors and seemed polite, well-behaved, well-dressed. They spent their apparently carefree days playing in a toy-filled yard.

But at night, the 11 children were not treated like ordinary children, authorities say. Their adoptive parents allegedly forced several of them to sleep in homemade cages about 3 1/2 feet high.

Their adoptive parents, Michael Gravelle, 56, and Sharen Gravelle, 57, denied in a custody hearing Monday they abused or neglected the children, aged one to 14, who have conditions that include autism and fetal alcohol syndrome.

The cages had mats and the house smelled of urine. They also had alarms that sounded when they were opened.

Neighbors said that the children were polite and well-behaved. They never saw any signs of abuse.

The children have been placed with foster families and appear to be doing well, authorities said. Charges have yet to be filed.