Gravelles ask community to help fund appeal

NORWALK Michael and Sharen Gravelle are asking the community for $50,000 to help fund their app
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Michael and Sharen Gravelle are asking the community for $50,000 to help fund their appeal.

The former adoptive parents, convicted of neglecting and abusing some of their 11 special-needs children, spoke at a press conference they called Wednesday about the community support they've received. The children were taken by Huron County officials in September 2005 after allegations the children slept in cages.

Clad in jeans and black shirts, the Gravelles showed no emotion as they approached the media to plea for help. Attorney Kenneth Myers explained the current situation, saying the Ohio Supreme Court has denied an appeal for the case so they are going to the U.S. Supreme Court in hope of leniency.

"The U.S. Supreme Court is the court of last (resort)," Myers said. "We'd like to go forward and say we've exhausted all possibilities."

The Gravelles have 90 days from the denial of the Ohio Supreme Court to approach the U.S. Supreme Court, and Myers said about 60 days are left. The Gravelles' sentences are at a standstill until the appeals process, which could take several months, has run its course.

Considering the highest branch of the judicial system only takes about 20 percent of cases brought before it, Myers said this is the only shot at getting the children back. If no appeal is filed, the children can legally be adopted elsewhere.

The Gravelles started with 30 criminal charges, including 17 felonies, and were convicted of four felonies and seven misdemeanors.

Michael Gravelle maintained his composure when asked questions about the mistreatment of the foster children in his care.

"We're standing for what we've always said -- we are innocent," he said.

The press conference was the first time the couple has commented to the media since criminal charges were filed against them in February 2006.

According to the couple, problems erupted after they contacted Huron County to obtain a medical card for their youngest and newly adopted child that should have been received one almost 10 months prior.

"I insulted Huron County Services by getting in his face and telling him how I felt," he said. "They came and removed the problem, they took the children away."

Michael Gravelle said the case built against them is a lie.

"There were no bruises or marks, they weren't being starved...The only cage in my house was a dog cage. What they saw were six enclosed beds."

Becoming emotional, he said, "Nobody else wanted those children...Those kids were beginning to understand family... That family was destroyed..."

Sharen Gravelle said she did spank the children as a disciplinary measure, but never purposely harmed them.

"We love those kids," Sharen said. "No matter what anyone says."

Questioned about her feelings regarding her children being taken away, she said, "How would you feel if you went home and everything was taken away? How would you feel if your family was ripped from you with no good-bye?"

Auctioneer Steven Kraus, who met the family about a year ago, is hosting an auction July 25 to raise funds for legal fees associated with the appeals process, totaling more than $50,000.

"I believe they are good, sincere people," Kraus said. "I think it's a travesty of justice what has happened to them."

In the meantime, the Gravelle's said they have remained at home, getting by on what little they've been able to scrape up with odd jobs and auctioning their personal items.

The couple talked freely about the support they've received.

"I believe we will (reach the goal of $50,000)," Michael Gravelle said. "Complete strangers have handed us money. There are people out there who want to help this cause."

Prosecutor Russell Leffler said the Gravelle's can try for the U.S. Supreme Court, but chances of being heard are slim to none because of number of applications.

"To get into the Supreme Court, you have to have a real big issue for the court to decide on," Leffler said. "Even then it's almost impossible."

When asked about the benefit, Leffler said he knows some people support the couple, but "I'm probably not going to be contributing to that myself."