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Daughter in Caged Children Case Testifies

February 23, 2006

NORWALK, Ohio (AP) _ An adult daughter of the Ohio couple accused of forcing some of their 11 adopted children to sleep in cages testified Wednesday that she had a miserable childhood that included a lack of food and abuse by her father.

Jenna Gravelle, 31, was a witness for prosecutors trying to persuade a juvenile court judge to place her adopted siblings in the county’s permanent care.

Earlier Wednesday, her father and stepmother, Michael and Sharen Gravelle, pleaded not guilty in a separate hearing to child endangerment and other crimes. Their trial was set for Sept. 12. If convicted, they could be sent to prison.

Jenna Gravelle said her father and stepmother provided little food for her and her brother Jesse and that the couple charged the teens money to live in their home.

``I was miserable,″ Gravelle said, describing bare kitchen cupboards, little privacy and ``inappropriate touching″ by her father that she said began at age 6 or 8.

``I felt like a prisoner,″ she said.

Her voice cracked occasionally while on the witness stand, and at times she began breathing heavily when she talked about the alleged abuse.

Michael Gravelle, who has denied the abuse allegations and has not been charged, rubbed his forehead and kept his eyes down as she testified. His lawyer has said Jenna falsely accused him because she was angry as a child that he married Sharen after Jenna’s mother died.

Jesse Gravelle testified that his father sat him and his brother down when they were youngsters after Jenna left home and ``told us that he had inappropriately touched her.″

``He didn’t indicate how long or any details, just that he had inappropriately touched her,″ he testified.

Michael and Sharen Gravelle deny abusing their adopted children, ages 1 to 15, saying the beds enclosed with wood and wire and equipped with alarms were necessary to protect the youngsters, who suffered from various psychological and behavioral problems.

A social worker last fall discovered the cages at the Gravelles’ home in rural Wakeman, about 60 miles west of Cleveland, and the adopted children have been in foster care ever since.

The Gravelles want the adopted children back. Prosecutors say the youngsters should be placed in the permanent care of Huron County.

Jenna Gravelle said she could not remember if she told caseworkers about the abuse. The Gravelles’ attorney, Ken Myers, asked whether her recollections were prompted by what she read recently regarding the cages.

``No, it’s internal,″ she replied. ``It’s something you feel every day.″

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