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Mother sentenced for keeping child locked in basement

USA TODAY USA TODAY 11/07/2016 Bethany Bruner
Angel Abram © 10tv Angel Abram

NEWARK, Ohio — Angel Abram sobbed in a Licking County courtroom Monday as a county judge told her she was going to prison.

Few cases surprise Judge David Branstool of Licking County Common Pleas Court, who was appointed in 2010 and had been a lawyer before that. But he told Abram that the case against her did.

"You failed to protect your child," he said.

Abram, 35, entered a guilty plea to a single count of endangering children, a second-degree felony.

The mother and her boyfriend, Joshua Bergeron, kept Abram's 6-year-old son in a "dirty, filthy" basement of their Wilson Street home for hours at a time for nearly five months, ​Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Paula Sawyers said. The 6-year-old was made to eat his meals in the small unfinished room, use a toddler potty that he had to empty himself and sleep on a deflated air mattress with a torn blanket.

He went to school but otherwise spent almost all of his time locked downstairs, authorities said when Abrams and Bergeron were arrested Oct. 13. Sawyers showed Branstool photos of the bedrooms of the three other children, 4 months to 13 years old at the time of the discovery, had in the home and then the basement.

"He was the forgotten child, the disposable child," she said while showing Branstool a photo of pictures framed on a wall in the home that did not include the 6-year-old.

Abram's lawyer, Kristin Burkett, said Abram was a victim as much as her child. Burkett cited a psychiatric report done before to a potential trial that diagnosed Abram with Battered Women's Syndrome.

Abram was less culpable than Bergeron, Burkett said. She had told others about the level of discipline exerted on the child.

"She was not able to get herself out of the situation," Burkett said. "She failed to protect him. We don't disagree with that."

Abram had ample opportunities to disclose that she was being abused or battered, including time alone with counselors, medical personnel and police, Sawyers said. In nearly an inch-thick stack of police reports taken during the time the child was being kept in the basement was no report of domestic abuse.

"She never reported domestic violence until she was criminally charged with this offense," Sawyers said.

Abram told Branstool she has been in counseling and it "seems to be helping" while promising the behavior would never happen again.

The behavior could not happen in the future since it has been made known to school counselors and other public safety agencies, Burkett also said.

"This being brought to light and made public would mitigate against it happening again," she said.

Branstool said he did not think the case was "classic Battered Women's Syndrome" and said he didn't understand Abram's behavior.

"It's hard to comprehend how this could happen and you not leave or at least get him out of there," he said. "At what point do you stand up and protect your child? You had many opportunities to do that, and you didn't."

Branstool imposed a three-year prison sentence, one year less than Bergeron received. Abram will be required to serve three years on parole after her release.

Follow Bethany Bruner on Twitter: @bethany_bruner

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