Sheila McLaughlin reports:
A Liberty Township woman who dropped her 9-year-old son at Butler County Children Services pleaded guilty to attempted abandonment Monday while trying to reunite with the troubled boy.
Lisa Cox entered a plea to the misdemeanor in Butler County Common Pleas Court as prosecutors dismissed a charge of nonsupport of a dependent against her husband, Cleveland Cox.
The charge against Cleveland Cox was dropped because it would have jeopardized his security clearance at his job, Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said in a press release.
“This case was never intended to do more harm than good, and jeopardizing his employment would not have been in the best interest of justice or society,” Gmoser said.
The couple were scheduled to go on trial Feb. 10 for nonsupport. The charge meant that the Coxes recklessly abandoned or failed to provide adequate support for the child, whom they adopted as an infant.
A grand jury charged the Coxes in October after they dropped the child off at children services with a bag of his clothes. A conviction carried a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The court clerk’s website indicates that Judge Michael Sage sentenced Lisa Cox on Monday but did not note the sentence. Sage’s staff referred questions to Gmoser, who did not return calls.
His press statement indicated that the attempted abandonment charge was a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying a jail term of up to 90 days and a $750 fine.
Charges against the Coxes came two months after Lisa Cox called police to the home saying the child was threatening to kill everyone in the house with a steak knife.
She told dispatchers that the child was on medication and had been hospitalized before for psychiatric problems. Lisa Cox also said she had tried to get the boy help for his mental illness but felt the child had not been diagnosed properly.
In Monday’s press release, Gmoser did not back down from decision to seek charges against the Coxes.
He said the case was unique and “resulted from a growing institutional indifference to parents seeking to terminate parental rights and responsibilities for a problematic child.”
“I found it illegal … and intolerable to turn a blind eye to the plight of a 9-year-old child with special needs being given up, abandoned, by his adoptive parents, the only parents he has ever known,” Gmoser said.
Anthony VanNoy, the Coxes’ attorney, could not be reached immediately for comment. He told the Associated Press last week his clients are visiting with the boy and hope to be reunited.