During their criminal trial on charges they had abused some of their adopted children, Michael and Sharen Gravelle declined to testify in their own defense. It was not until after the sentencing phase that we heard from them.
A jury found the Gravelles guilty, and we have written in this space before that we believe in the jury system. But there remains too many questions as to how this could all happen and who, exactly, was sleeping at the wheel when it came to protecting these children. The prosecutor's office got its convictions, but it seems nobody else is being held accountable.
The Gravelles agreed to adopt children who were taken from squalid conditions and give those children a home where they intended to love and nurture them. Huron County officials, as well as Stark County officials, agreed to allow this, because, one can only believe, they thought it was the right thing.
In fact, professional child advocates agreed, and agreed, and agreed, to the point where the Gravelles had adopted 11 children, a burden difficult for any couple under the best of circumstances. Some of the children had severe behavioral problems, according to the Gravelles, and assistance from the local child welfare agency was hard to get.
The spirited and heartfelt statements the Gravelles made at their sentencing have a ring of truth that makes us extremely uncomfortable with the process leading to their convictions. We also worry, and wonder, at times, whether these children had been in the best possible place when they were with the Gravelles and whether a more professional approach by those responsible for helping children would have better served all parties. We worry, as we have stated previously, that county officials are ready to sweep the issues under the rug by convicting the Gravelles, rather than fixing what went wrong.
Many people believe the Gravelles got what they had coming to them when Huron County Common Pleas Court Judge Earl McGimpsey sentenced each of them to two years in prison. We're just not sure, and perhaps we'll never know.