Shenna Grimm was 16 in 1998 when her mother and stepfather, Narda and John Goff, inseminated her with a syringe full of John’s sperm. Shenna had been withdrawn from school in fourth grade to be homeschooled, but instead she was forced to work as a servant for the Goffs. John Goff had also repeatedly raped and physically abused her.
Narda Goff was convicted in 2002 of helping John impregnate her daughter and was sentenced to three years in prison. John Goff was convicted in 2002 of rape, sexual battery, and child endangering and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 2005 an appeals court overturned the convictions; however, in his retrial in 2006 John was again convicted of the same charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Date: December 1998
Location: Akron, Ohio
In September 2013, a 17-year-old homeschooled teenager made an online threat of violence against Mentor High School in Mentor, Ohio.
The teenager had posted a Facebook status on September 12, talking about killing “a lot of people at Mentor High today.” He was homeschooled and not a student at the high school. A Facebook friend of his saw the status update and immediately told her mom. Her mom reported the threat.
Mentor Police immediately launched an investigation. The teenager was taken into custody for questioning. The boy’s defense attorney, Mark Ziccarelli, said that the boy made the threat as a cry for help. Ziccarelli argued for the boy’s defense in Juvenile Court, saying that, “Part of his problem was socialization,” laying blame on how the boy was homeschooled without sufficient social outlets. Ziccarelli pointed out that, since the boy had been in juvenile detention, he had “learned socialization skills just by being around kids his age.”
The teenager was originally charged with two counts of inducing panic. This was changed to a felony count of making false alarms. It was recommended that he stay in juvenile detention indefinitely to take advantage of a rehabilitation program.
In June 2012, Michael Mason — a 16-year-old boy from Willard, Ohio — shot his mother in the back and left her for dead.
Michael shot his mom Melissa around 11:30 am one morning. He then fled his home and ran to a friend’s house. Melissa was fortunately able to call 911. Michael was arrested 1 1/2 hours later after a flurry of law enforcement officers descended upon the home.
Michael had a tough family life and a history of acting out. A public defender, David Longo, also said that “Mason has some psychiatric issues that haven’t been properly handled.” On a previous occasion Michael stole a car and drove the vehicle from Ohio to Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also had trouble in public schools, which ultimately resulted in him being removed from the Willard City School system to be homeschooled by his mother. Peers described him as “always kind of quiet” and someone who “wrote poems to girls”; they did not expect to “see the violence in him.”
Melissa was rushed by a medical helicopter to a nearby hospital. She survived and was in good condition by the night after the attack.
Michael was charged with attempted murder. He originally pleaded “not guilty by reason of insanity,” but a clinical psychologist determined he was not insane at the time of the attempted murder. In May of 2013, he was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 5 years of probation after his prison sentence.
Like his older brother Chevie, Cheyne was homeschooled and inculcated into the white supremacy beliefs of his parents. Cheyne Kehoe was sentenced in 1998 to more than 24 years in prison for attempted murder.
Despite his own extremism, Cheyne ultimately became disturbed by his older brother’s violence after his brother “began talking of killing their parents and his own wife,” as well as “taking a sexual interest in Cheyne’s wife.” Cheyne was the one who turned his brother in to the authorities.
After his involvement in the police shootout in 1997 with his brother Chevie and his connection to the Aryan Peoples Republic (considered a terrorist cell), Cheyne was featured on America’s Most Wanted. He later turned himself in to authorities. Cheyne was sentenced in 1998 to more than 24 years in prison for attempted murder. This sentence was reduced to 11 years because he had turned his brother in as well.
Upon being released from prison, Cheyne moved with his father Kirby from Washington to Arizona. Despite being banned from owning firearms as convicted felons, they began stockpiling weapons. Cheyne and his father Kirby were consequently arrested again in September of 2013 on “federal firearms charges,” after a raid on their sprawling ranch in Arizona turned up “dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.”
In the late 1990s, 18-month-old Gail Perkins was kidnapped by her father, Allen Perkins, from her Greensboro, North Carolina, home in the midst of a custody dispute. Along with his mother, Ruth Perkins, Allen fled with the girl to Alabama and later Ohio, where he claimed to be homeschooling his now 6-year-old daughter (it is unknown whether he followed Ohio’s homeschool law or, more likely, homeschooled under the radar). On February 23, 2002, five years after Gail was kidnapped, private investigators finally tracked the family down and returned Gail to her mother, Nikki Jones.
Date: February 23, 2002
Location: Streetsboro, Ohio Continue reading
Teddy Foltz-Tedesco, 14, was beaten unconscious by his mother’s boyfriend, Zaryl G. Bush. Bush then threatened Teddy’s younger twin brothers, 8, into helping him cover up the scene of the crime. Teddy was not taken to the hospital until several hours after the incident and was pronounced dead five days later, after suffering from internal bleeding and brain contusions. The abuse started three year prior, when Bush started dating Widdersheim. The family became increasingly isolated, and Teddy’s father did not see him after his tenth birthday. Two years before Teddy’s death a grandmother tried to intervene in the family, but Widdersheim refused to believe her children. Friends and neighbors contacted social services, but after teachers at Teddy’s school started an inquiry with the Ohio children’s services agency, Widdersheim withdrew her children from public school to homeschool them. Zaryl Bush was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder charges, four counts of child endangering, and two counts of intimidation. Shain Widdersheim was sentenced to 15 years in prison on four counts of child endangerment and obstructing justice. On December 17, 2013, State Senator Capri Cafaro introduced Senate Bill 248, “Teddy’s Law”, which would require a school superintendent to check names of parents who propose to homeschool against child abuse and children’s services agencies’ lists.
Date: January 26, 2013
Location: Struthers, Ohio Continue reading
On September 21, 1992, six year old Hannah Carroll died of severe bleach burns, which covered one third of her body and were left untreated for three days. Hannah, who had Down syndrome, was one of ten special needs children adopted by Kathleen and Timothy Carroll, a fundamentalist Christian homeschooling couple. In the three months after Hannah’s death, three more of the Carrolls’ adopted children died. One month old Chloe died shortly after being returned by court order to the adoption agency that had preliminarily placed her with the Carrolls, and her death was not included in future investigations. The remaining deaths were those of three year old Noah, who suffered seizures, and three year old Mollie, who had mental retardation and severe allergies. When it appeared that Mollie had been dead for 12 hours before her death was reported, officials temporarily removed the remaining Carroll children from the home, returning them shortly before Christmas. In January 1993 Kathleen and Timothy Carroll pleaded guilty to child neglect in relation to Hannah’s death. They were placed on probation and prohibited from adopting more children without court permission. In June 1993, there was a fifth death: twelve year old Josiah, who had cerebral palsy. The county had an inquest in July where inconsistencies emerged between experts’ testimony and family members’ stories. A judge recused himself amid concerns that he had grown too close to the case. In August, the couple’s eldest biological son, James, then 17, was charged with involuntary manslaughter; James had been the one supervising Hannah at the time she received the bleach burns that resulted in her death. A new judge ordered Samuel, then 5, and Isaiah, then 11, to be placed in foster care. In October the bodies of Mollie and Josiah were exhumed, and the deaths of both Hannah and Josiah were ruled homicides while the deaths of Noah and Mollie were ruled inconclusive. In November, James was acquitted of all charges. Kathleen and Timothy immediately turned their attention to regaining custody of Samuel and Isaiah, and were eventually granted home visits. In June 1994, Isaiah implicated James in Josiah’s death. Home visits continued, but the judge ruled that James must not be present. In May 1995, after James had turned 18 and left home, Samuel and Isaiah were returned to the Carrolls. In October 1997, as a result of legal representation by the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Carrolls were allowed to resume homeschooling Samuel and Isaiah.
Date: September 21, 1992, through June 14, 1993
Location: Cedarville, Ohio
Wilson and Brenda Sullivan’s 17 year old mentally handicapped adopted son was found caged in a crib by investigators responding to an anonymous tip. He was severely malnourished and weighed only 49 pounds, less than what he weighed when the couple had adopted him at age 7 ten years prior. Two other adopted children, aged 10, were kept in similar cages. The family homeschooled. The couple had been praised for their willingness to adopt special needs children by the governor himself in 1995. Wilson died before the trial was completed, and Brenda was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Date: March 8, 2005
Location: Jacksonville, Ohio
8 year old Willie Robinson, who died of pneumonia due to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, would have survived if given proper cancer treatment. His parents, Monica Hussing and William Robinson Sr., had not provided Willie or their five other children, ages 5, 6, 7, 13, and 14, with medical care in three years. After receiving a concerned phone call, a caseworker had become involved with the family the previous year, and had noted that Willie’s neck was oddly swollen. The caseworker urged Willie’s parents to put him in school and obtain medical coverage for him, and Monica promised to get her medical benefits in order but said she wanted to homeschool Willie after a bullying incident on a bus. When Monica did not follow their case plan goals, legal action was threatened and the family responded by moving across the state. A month later, Willie died. Monica and William Sr. were convicted of both medical neglect and educational neglect.
Date: March 22, 2008
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Kenneth H. Brandt pleaded guilty to raping his three sons, ages 9 to 12; two were adopted and the other was in the process of being adopted. Brandt also pleaded guilty to prostituting one of the boys, aged 10, out to two other men. Not long before the sexual abuse was discovered, Brandt had removed the three boys from their school to homeschool them, removing their access to anyone they could ask for help. The abuse was discovered in a sting operation when an undercover detective posing as interested in sex with underage boys and communicated with Brandt online. Brandt had also adopted a girl, but she was not subject to abuse. Brandt was found guilty and sentenced to sixty years in prison.
Date: February 2012
Location: Troy, Ohio Continue reading
Thomas Lavery, 57, plead guilty to attempted child endangerment after being accused of bullying his five homeschooled children to win spelling bees and excel academically by beating them and forcing them to study for long periods without sleep or bathroom breaks. Lavery also jumped on his daughter, Marjory, and threatening to kill her after she took second place in the national spelling bee, and forced his children to lick spilled food off of his shoes. The family lived in Ohio.
Location: Akron, Ohio Continue reading
Michael and Sharon Gravelle forced their eleven adopted special needs children to sleep in stacked cages rigged with alarms. At night, the children were so afraid of setting off the alarms that they would urinate in their clothes rather than leave their cages to go to the bathroom. The children were also emotionally abused, spanked with boards, and sometimes had their heads held underwater in a toilet as punishment. The children were homeschooled through an online charter school program. The family lived in Ohio.
Date: September 2005
Location: Clarksfield, Ohio Continue reading
Makayla Norman had cerebral palsy and was unable to walk, talk, or care for herself. Her mother homeschooled her and occasionally hired a nurse to help with her care. Makayla’s condition at the time of her death at age 14 was described by the homicide detective as “horrific.” Makayla’s hair and eyebrows were infested with lice and her body was covered from head to toe in open bedsores. Her skin was caked with dirt and her hips were coated with feces. Makayla died of starvation, and her body was so thin it was skeletal. The family lived in Ohio.
Date: March 1, 2011
Location: Dayton, Ohio Continue reading