Gravelles report to Huron County jail

NORWALK A light drizzle fell in Norwalk when Sharen Gravelle arrived at the Huron Co
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



A light drizzle fell in Norwalk when Sharen Gravelle arrived at the Huron County jail.

Climbing out of a white van at 8:07 a.m. Monday, the 60-year-old covered her head as she quickly walked to the facility’s entrance.

She wasn’t trying to keep from getting wet — she was trying to hide her face from the cameras belonging to the television news media.

Since they first were accused of criminally mistreating some of their 11 adopted children in 2005, Sharen and her estranged husband, Michael Gravelle, have had a strained relationship with the media.

Michael claims that once reports circulated that he and his wife made their special-needs children sleep in “cages,” any chance of the couple receiving a fair trial disintegrated.

The so-called cages were enclosures made of wood and chicken wire Michael said prevented the children from hurting themselves.

“Once the sheriff’s department put out the word ‘cages’ into the media consciousness, it stuck in a way that made it difficult for anyone to erase” from their minds, said Kenneth Myers, attorney for the Gravelles. “It conjures up images that are very negative and weren’t how things were.”

Even though they were convicted in 2006 of 11 charges of child abuse and child endangerment — and then sentenced to two years in prison — the Gravelles have not spent any time behind bars.

Trial court Judge Earl McGimpsey stayed the sentence while the couple appealed the case. McGimpsey noted he believed there were some plausible grounds for an appeal.

More than two years after it was filed, the appeal failed.

The Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo upheld the lower court’s conviction last week, rejecting the Gravelles’ claims of legal mishandling.

The defeat was dispiriting to the Gravelles.

“They are just disappointed,” Myers said. “They still don’t feel they violated any laws, so it’s disappointing to be stripped of their freedom.”

Following the appeal’s failure, Judge James Conway ordered the pair to report to jail by 9 a.m. Monday.

But the couple isn’t done fighting quite yet.

A last-minute request on Monday morning for another stay pending an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court failed. Even so, the Gravelles are trying to get their conviction reversed by the supreme court: Myers said he will file the legal documents with the court within the next 40 days.

There is no guarantee the Supreme Court will hear their case. Only a fraction of the cases filed with the court go before the judges.

But Myers said this is his clients’ last hope.

For now, the Gravelles are facing their past from the comfort of jail cells.

On Monday, about 10 minutes after Sharen turned herself over to jail authorities, Michael did the same.

Like his estranged wife, Michael said nothing to reporters as he walked into the Huron County jail.

He removed his leather jacket, wallet and keys, handing them over to jail staff. His personal possessions were placed in a plastic bag.

Unless the Supreme Court rules in his favor, Michael will not reclaim his things for two years.