11 children found locked in cages

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The Independent US

A judge yesterday put the children - who range in age from 1 to 14 and who have various disabilities, including autism - into foster homes.

The children were found in nine cages built into the walls of the house near the small US city of Wakeman in northern Ohio, according to the Huron County Sheriff's Office. They had no blankets or pillows, and the cages were rigged with alarms that sounded if opened, said Lt. Randy Sommers.

The children told authorities they slept in the cages - 40 inches high and 40 inches deep - at night. Doors to some of the cages were blocked with heavy furniture.

Sharen and Mike Gravelle are adoptive or foster parents for all 11 children, officials said. Prosecutors were reviewing the case, but no charges had been filed as of last night.

A children's services investigator saw one of the children in a cage on Friday, Sommers said. The sheriff's office obtained a warrant and returned to the house that evening and removed the children.

Appearing with a lawyer at the hearing, the Gravelles denied they had abused or neglected the children.

County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said the Gravelles claimed a psychiatrist recommended they place the children in cages.

The couple were reserved when deputies arrived at the house to remove the children, Sommers said.

"The impression that we got was that they felt it was OK," he said.

Investigators believe nine of the children slept in the cages that were stacked two-high on the house's second story. Two mattresses on a bedroom floor also showed signs of recent use, Sommers said.

One of the boys said he'd slept in the cage for three years, Sommers said.

Wakeman, with a population of about 1,000, is some 50 miles west of Cleveland.