Nov. 2, 2005 — -- The Ohio couple accused of keeping some of their 11 adopted children in cages is breaking their silence and fighting to get their children back.
The children were removed from the house of Michael and Sharen Gravelle in September after a social services investigator spotted one of the children in a cage. The children range in ages from 1 to 15, and police say eight of them said they slept in cages that were less than 3 feet high.
The Gravelles told "Good Morning America" in an interview today they only kept three or four children in the enclosures and that they did so because they were severely emotionally disturbed and a threat to themselves and the other children. They said two other children "just liked sleeping in the enclosure."
"One little girl, she had a regular bed that's still in the room and she chose to get down and get in the enclosure," Sharen Gravelle said. "They play in them."
The Huron County Sheriff's Office reported finding nine cages built into the wall of an upstairs bedroom. The Huron County Department of Job and Family Services has alleged in court documents that the children, who suffer from conditions such as fetal alcohol syndrome and autism, were abused and neglected or in danger of being mistreated.
The Gravelles said there are only six enclosures and not all the children suffer from disabilities.
Michael Gravelle told police he built the cages himself in 2002 after a child therapist assured him it was the best way to protect the kids from each other. He said the cages were meant to accommodate a twin size mattress and that they are spacious, allowing a child to move around and stand up in the larger cages. They said the cages were never locked, but were fitted with alarms that alerted them when a child was up and about.
"There are no locks," Sharen Gravelle said. "We didn't even lock our house at night so why would we lock our child in?"
Michael Gravelle said he was willing to compromise with family services about keeping the children in cages if they regain custody.
"Several of the children still need to be in some type of enclosure for their safety and for the security of the whole family," Michael Gravelle said. "Yes, we would consider any type of compromise … That is our goal, to reach out to them so they will listen to us and negotiate with us in all fairness and bring our children home."
In a hearing last week, Huron County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Cardwell rejected a motion to allow the Gravelle's 19-month-old adopted child to be returned to a Chicago-area adoption agency.
No charges have been filed in this case.