Mom sentenced in child lockout
It's a parent's role to protect the children, the prosecutor told the judge.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Lakeisha M. Ross will serve 22 days in jail for a crime police described as "tossing her child outside like a cat."
Ross, 29, of Steel Street, was in municipal court Thursday for sentencing.
Judge Robert P. Milich sentenced her to 180 days in jail, suspended 120, gave her credit for 38 days served, and placed her on one year's probation. While in jail, she must submit to psychological, drug and alcohol evaluations.
Ross's Canfield attorney, Renee M. LaCivita, asked that her client not report to jail immediately but be given time to "get her affairs in order."
Judge Milich wondered what affairs. LaCivita, after conferring with Ross, said her client wanted to make sure her bills were paid.
The judge agreed to allow Ross to report to the county jail at 9 a.m. Monday.
Last November, Ross pleaded no contest to one count of child endangering. Obstructing official business, criminal trespassing and another count of child endangering were dismissed in the plea agreement.
Her neighbors called police last July 16 when Ross's daughter, nearly 6 at the time, was seen wandering near her Steel Street apartment. Two of the neighbors saw the child on the porch of her home around 10 p.m., crying because no one would let her in.
Patrolmen Bill Bailey and Tom Andrews took statements from several neighbors, one of whom said it was not unusual to see the child locked out by her mother. The witness said Ross would put the girl outside early in the morning and not let her back in until after dark.
The child, police learned, didn't think it unusual to urinate and defecate in yards. Neighbors often pitched in to feed the girl.
Dana C. Guarnieri, assistant city prosecutor, recommended to Judge Milich that Ross serve 120 days. Guarnieri said that when Ross was "entertaining," she would lock her daughter outside.
The night they rescued the little girl and called police, the neighbors said they had seen the child nearly struck twice by cars as she wandered in the middle of the street. The neighbors also heard Ross yelling at the child to "get out" and the sound of the front door slamming.
Bailey and Andrews turned Ross' daughter over to Children Services Bureau. Ross ran when told her son, 4 months old at the time, would also be turned over to CSB.
Andrews and Bailey gave chase and found Ross hiding in a house on Butler Street, where she'd entered through an unlocked back door.
In court Thursday, Guarnieri said Ross, instead of accepting responsibility, has tried to blame her neighbors for what happened.
On Monday, a magistrate in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court denied a request by Ross to issue a civil protection order against Bailey and the neighbors. The magistrate said he found no evidence to back up Ross' claims, which were that her neighbors have been harassing her and that Bailey didn't want to listen to her complaints about them.
LaCivita, who asked Judge Milich to hand down a suspended sentence, said Ross has taken parenting classes.
Ross told Judge Milich that she realizes she wasn't "fully watching" her daughter. She said she has learned to be more involved and alert -- and to not trust people.
LaCivita told the judge that Ross, whose children are now with her mother, has a case pending in juvenile court brought by CSB.
There was some confusion in court over how many days Ross had served in jail, 23 or 38. The file showed 23 days but, after a check by the probation department at Judge Milich's request, it turned out that Ross had been back in jail for 15 additional days based on the charges in juvenile court.
After court, Guarnieri said she felt Ross needed to serve the 120 days. She said the case in juvenile court is based on the municipal court case.