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%dheadline(Judge severs Ill. woman’s ties to son%)

May 7, 2003

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) _ A judge severed a woman’s parental ties to her toddler because she stood by 14 years ago as her then-husband fatally rammed another son’s head into a toilet to punish him for soiling his pants.

Judge Thomas Russell found that Illinois law gives parents convicted of murdering their offspring ``no opportunity to show rehabilitation ... even if a lifetime of years has passed″ since the crime.

Russell’s ruling Tuesday in Jerseyville reversed his 2001 decision to grant Sheryl Hardy custody of the boy, now 2, over the objections of prosecutors and Illinois’ child-welfare agency. He reheard the case after a state appeals court found Hardy unfit last August.

Hardy’s lawyer, Thomas Denby, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

The boy’s father, 47-year-old Randy Hardy, has said he wants to raise his only child, but his lawyer, Todd Parish, said the next move was unclear.

``He’s being asked to decide whether to remain married to his wife, or be a single parent and father to his child,″ Parish said.

The boy will remain with a foster family until a court ruling on a permanent home. A hearing was scheduled for May 28. Until then, the Hardys will continue seeing the child twice a week in state-supervised visits.

Sheryl Hardy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1990, after admitting that she lit a cigarette and watched as Thomas Coe attacked her 2-year-old son the year before in Lakeland, Fla.

The boy, Bradley McGee, died of head injuries, sparking an overhaul of Florida’s child-protection laws. Thomas Coe is serving a life sentence.

Sheryl Hardy, known then as Sheryl Coe, was forced to give up two other daughters for adoption. She served nine years, then returned to her Illinois hometown, remarried and had her new son in 2001.

Jill Manuel, spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Family Services, said the agency was pleased with the decision.

``We feel she’s an unfit mother,″ Manuel said.

The judge acknowledged that his latest decision may seem harsh but said state law must prevail _ even though Sheryl Hardy ``is an entirely different person today″ and the 2-year-old is normal and well-adjusted.

``While the result here may have been very different had this child been born in another state, respondent came under the jurisdiction of Illinois law when she chose to move here,″ he wrote.


On the Net:

Child protection agency: http://www.state.il.us/dcfs

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