Hartsville couple admit to torturing their three grandsons - WBTW-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Florence, SC

Hartsville couple admit to torturing their three grandsons

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By Jamie Rogers

CHESTERFIELD — A Hartsville couple had nothing to say about the torturous acts they confessed to committing against their three grandsons for more than year —acts that included placing shock collars on a 12-year-old boy and then forcing his younger brother to electrocute him.

James and Cheri Crawford offered no excuses or explanations for their acts after pleading guilty Monday in Chesterfield County to three counts of unlawful neglect towards a child, 4th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Kendall Burch, who prosecuted the case, said.

Cheri Crawford received a 10-year prison sentence suspended to eight years for each charge.

Her husband, James Wilbert Crawford, was sentenced to 10 years for each count, but that sentence was suspended to seven years in prison.

All sentences will run concurrently. Once they are released from prison, they must serve five years supervised released.

James Crawford, the paternal grandfather of the three boys, and their stepgrandmother gained custody of the victims in 2005 after their father was slain in Missouri, Burch said. Authorities don’t have any information about the boys’ biological mother.
 
Deputies and the state Department of Social Services were notified about the case in July 2009 after a neighbor noticed two of boys, then aged 8 and 11, standing at military-style attention in the hot sun.

The oldest boy was found locked in an abandoned trailer in Hartsville with out any electricity, food or running water.  There was no sewer service in the trailer, and the 12-year-old  had only a bucket to use as toilet.

Cheri Crawford forced the boy’s younger brothers to empty the raw waste from the bucket every few days, Burch said.

“When they found them, that bucket was full,” she said.

The 12-year-old had been locked in the trailer for more than a year and six months. The door was locked from the outside and could only be opened by his stepgrandmother.

“He was not allowed out. He could only come out at Christmas. Cheri felt like that child was a bad seed,” Burch said. “He was fed with a blindfold because his food had bugs in it. There was a bed in there, but he had stop sleeping in it because of the bed bugs.”

The 11-year-old boy was forced to electrocute his older brother using the shock collars their grandparents forced him to wear around his neck.

Neither the 11-year-old nor his older brother were allowed in the house. The 11-year-old was only allowed to sleep in an outdoor shed or in a camping tent with his brothers, Burch said.

All the boys were fed sour milk and spoiled food and were forced to dig holes and hold heavy objects for hours at a time. When they weren’t busy, their grandparents made them stand at attention outside, Burch said.

“Their bodies were disfigured. They were so malnourished. She would make them hold weights so their upper bodies were bigger than their lower bodies,” Burch said.

The Crawfords also forced their grandchildren to learn a rigorous and complicated clothing schedule.

They had to master the clothing drill before they could sit down and eat after standing up all day.

“It was very complicated. The middle child told me, ‘I knew it. But she (Cheri Crawford) would change it up on me,’” Burch said. “The middle child still remembered. He was even able to tell me the clothing schedule months after it happened.”

Fourth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Adam Foard said the office was prepared to take the case to trial Monday, even though the Crawfords indicated last week they would plead guilty.

“I am so happy they pled. I am happy for the children’s sake. (The children) didn’t even want to see them. I didn’t want to put them through a trial,” Burch said.

Burch said all the boys are now in loving foster homes with families who genuinely care about them. She said the victims have all undergone amazing changes over the past year and are doing well.

Though their grandparents didn’t allow them to attend school, all three boys are now caught up in their studies, thanks to a year of tutoring and counseling, and are at their proper grade levels, Burch said.

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