A Liberty Twp. couple accused of abandoning their 9-year-old son pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to misdemeanor nonsupport of dependents charges in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
Cleveland Cox, 49, and his wife Lisa, 52, of 8250 Windsor Trail, will stand trial for those charges on Feb. 10, 2014. The couple is accused of dropping off their adopted 9-year-old son at Butler County Children Services on Oct. 24 with a bag of clothes and a letter from his mother. They adopted him when he was four months old.
Court documents filed by Prosecutor Mike Gmoser indicate Lisa Cox contacted Children Services in mid-September seeking services to help deal with her son’s “unruly and disturbing behavior.” The documents say she claimed he was a threat to her safety and the safety of her family.
The documents say by late September the parents, “in concert” with Children Services, agreed to terminate parental rights and responsibilities. The Coxes were advised to tell the child about the looming separation. The Coxes brought their son to Children Services on Oct. 24 and the court documents indicate the child did not know why he was there.
“He did not know and was not told by his parents that he would never return to the only home he has known or see his brother and sister again,” the document reads.
After his parents left him, the child was “sad and tearful” and told his caseworker he thought he was going to a hospital “to be fixed.”
The boy was left with no toys and only a small suitcase of clothes that contained a hand-written letter from his mother. In the letter, she said she will always love the boy and signed it: “Your Mom.” Read the letter »
“I will never, ever forget you. You will always be in my heart,” she wrote in the letter. “I pray one day you will come to see and believe that. And that you will understand why we did what we did. I want so much for you to be healthy and happy. You couldn’t be happy in our family, but I know you will find happiness some day.”
The Coxes were indicted Nov. 13 by a grand jury for “recklessly abandoning or failing to provide adequate support to” their child. When sheriff’s deputies went to arrest the Coxes a day after the indictment, they learned the parents had taken their other two children out of school and left the area, according to Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Anthony Dwyer.
The Coxes eventually turned themselves in to authorities on Nov. 15 and could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine based on the first-degree misdemeanor charges against them.
The court documents indicated on Nov. 7, the day after the case was presented to a grand jury the couple “expressed a desire to reunify” with their son.
A scheduled hearing in Butler County Juvenile Court on the request to terminate the Coxes’ parental responsibilities was delayed on Wednesday at the request of the couple’s attorney until after the criminal proceedings have been concluded.
Both Gmoser and the couple’s attorney Anthony Vannoy said they could not comment on the case.