Ohio woman accused of abandoning son enters plea

LISA CORNWELL Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A southwest Ohio woman accused with her husband of abandoning the adopted 9-year-old son they raised since infancy pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge and received a suspended jail sentence, a prosecutor said.

Lisa Cox and husband Cleveland Cox, of Butler County's Liberty Township, had been charged with nonsupport of dependents. The misdemeanor charge alleging that they recklessly abandoned or failed to provide adequate support for the boy could have resulted in sentences of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each of them.

Lisa Cox pleaded guilty to the lesser misdemeanor of attempted nonsupport of dependents and received a suspended sentence of 90 days in jail, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said.

The charge against Cleveland Cox was dropped because jeopardizing the father's employment "would not have been in the best interest of justice or society," Gmoser said.

The couple's attorney, Anthony VanNoy, did not immediately return calls to his office Monday.

Authorities alleged the couple left the boy with children services in October after saying he displayed aggressive behavior and earlier threatened the family with a knife.

Documents filed by the prosecutor say the parents didn't tell the boy when they left him on Oct. 24 that he wouldn't be returning home. The boy was left with a bag containing some clothes and a handwritten letter from Lisa Cox in which she said that she loved him and would never forget him.

VanNoy said last week after a pre-trial hearing that the boy has gotten some much-needed help and the parents have been in counseling with him. VanNoy said the family's goal had always been to get help for the boy.

Gmoser said the mother's sentence was suspended conditioned upon her good behavior and continued cooperation with the county's children services toward reunification with the boy.

Gmoser said he was encouraged by Lisa Cox taking responsibility and by the reunification efforts.

"I feel justice was served," the prosecutor said in a telephone interview Monday. "There was no justification for abandonment, but there were mitigating circumstances with respect to the frustration that the family was having toward the issues they were facing on a daily basis."

The prosecutor said he hoped the case would stand as a message and a deterrent to parents who seek to abandon their children in a similar fashion and would focus attention on issues raised by the case.