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Starved child’s parents sent to prison

Courtney Astolfi • Nov 5, 2013 at 10:15 AM

James Brothers, 34, and Adrienne Bartholomew, 35, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of felonious child endangering and three counts of misdemeanor child endangering, in connection with the Nov. 6, 2012, death of their son, Isaac Brothers-Bartholomew.    

On Monday, Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette sentenced each of them to five years in prison and one year in the county jail.

Brothers will serve a consecutive sentence, while Bartholomew will serve a concurrent one. This means Brothers will serve a full six years, while his wife will be released after three years.

The sentencing comes almost a year to the day after their son died of starvation in the family’s Risden Road home.

One of the Brothers-Bartholomew children — they had seven, including Isaac — found Isaac unresponsive, prompting Brothers to call police. When Erie County deputies arrived at the home they found the six surviving siblings in various stages of neglect: vomit in their hair, urine on their clothes, and a house filled by the stench of waste.

The children suffer from a rare genetic disorder that affects their ability to retain healthy fat deposits, which was a key component in the pair’s defense, according to court testimony.

At Monday’s hearing, defense attorney Denise Demmitt said the children’s medical conditions should be taken into account when determining the parents’ sentences. Demmitt faulted her clients for missing scheduled appointments with doctors and social workers, but maintained the pair had their children’s best interest in mind.

Demmitt also said the neglect that led to Isaac’s death was the result of the sheer number of children in the home and the care each of them required.

Amanda Siesel, a social worker at Erie County Job and Family Services, described how the Brothers-Bartholomew children have improved in both health and mindset since they were taken from their biological parents and placed into foster homes.

“The most severe case of neglect Erie County Children’s Services had ever seen,” Siesel said of the case involving the Brothers-Bartholomew children.

Brothers and Bartholomew also made statements to the court, in hopes of garnering leniency from Binette.

“I miss them all just crazy, all I think about is them, they were my whole life,” Brothers said of his children.

Said Bartholomew: “Everything our life was about, was about those children. I was tired a lot, we just kept getting bombarded right and left.”

Binette was far from sympathetic.

“The truth is a real issue for you,” Binette said to Brothers, calling his statements a “charade.”

“Your attorney plays you off as a hero,” Binette said. “I see a villain. I think the only remorse you have is that you got caught.”

Binette also brought up testimony from the couple’s 11-year-old child. During the course of the investigation, the child told authorities his father played video games on the couch, and his mother was on the computer all day. The child also mentioned he was responsible for feeding his siblings, and the children were only bathed once a week. The boy also described “therapy cleaning”— how the family would clean the house in preparation for social worker visits.

Ultimately, Binette gave Brothers a longer sentence than his wife.

“The court finds the husband more culpable,” Binette said, adding that he took into account Brothers’ responsibility to take the children to appointments, as well as his “controlling” nature and criminal history.

Both defendants received 222 days credit for time already served in jail.

The couple’s co-defendant, Deborah Nelson — the children’s grandmother and home healthcare nurse — previously pleaded guilty to similar charges in the case. She has yet to be sentenced.

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