YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — An Austintown couple charged with child endangering after someone spotted their child while shopping were sentenced Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Samuel Myers, 32, and his wife Sara Myers, 35, each received a sentence of 15 months in prison by Judge Anthony D’Apolito.
The two pleaded guilty Sept. 23 to a third-degree felony charge of endangering children and two first-degree misdemeanor charges of endangering children.
Judge D’Apolito said he will keep the older child who was abused away from the couple as long as he can.
“My plan is that [the child] never sees his parents again,” Judge D’Apolito said.
The two were indicted in October by a Mahoning County grand jury after a shopper at the store made a report to police in August 2022 because she was concerned about their child.
Reports said the child was covered in bruises and appeared to be starving.
Police in Austintown were contacted and they visited the couple’s North Raccoon Road amid their investigation.
The home was in disarray, reports said, with urine and feces on the floor and a tent where reports said the children slept. Locks and chains were also on a door in the closet which Samuel Myers told police had food, however, officers found no food, reports said.
There were also two other children in the home. All three children were taken by the Mahoning County Children Services Board.
Assistant Prosecutor Caitlyn Andrews said the boy who was spotted by the shopper is a teenager, but he was severely underweight.
The other two children in the home told investigators that the child only ate every other day and had to ask permission to eat, Andrews said.
Sometimes the boy was taking food from the trash at school and school staff chipped in to make sure he always had a lunch at school, Andrews said.
He had to ask permission to use the bathroom and when he did not receive permission, he once went in the litter box.
He was also beaten and the bruises had to have been painful, Andrews said. Additionally, his younger two siblings were not treated like him, Andrews said.
“They made his life a living hell,” Andrews said of his parents.
Since he was taken from the couple, he has gained weight and his grades have improved, Andrews said.
A caseworker for Mahoning County Children Services Board said the goal is to reunify all three children; however, the oldest child does not want to return to his home, although he does not mind supervised visits with the Myerses, the caseworker said.
The caseworker said that the child’s caregivers are going through the legal steps to adopt him.
Ed Hartwig, Samuel Myers’ lawyer, said his client takes responsibility for his actions and said Samuel Myers was weighed down by responsibilities, although he stressed that was not an excuse for his actions.
Samuel Myers said having eight animals, an autistic child and working 40 hours a week was almost insurmountable and that he now realizes he should have asked for help.
“Going forward, I will dedicate my entire life to my children,” he said. He said he was sorry for what he put all three children through.
“I know I’m not a monster but I did make bad decisions that will haunt me the rest of my life,” he said.
Ron Yarwood, the attorney for Sara Myers, said Sara Myers did not want her children to go through a trial, which is one of the reasons she pleaded guilty. Yarwood also said she was “overwhelmed” by things going on in the home and with mental health issues and stopped getting treatment for her mental health.
Sara Myers told the judge said she has made “bad mistakes” and she was “too proud to ask for help.”
“The honest truth is I don’t have anybody to blame for this situation except for myself,” she said. “My hope is that everybody can put their lives back together.”
Judge D’Apolito said he never heard the parents say they were sorry for beating the oldest child: “It was all about you,” he said.
“I never once heard you say, ‘I’m sorry for beating this child,’” Judge D’Apolito said. “You treated him like a dog but you treated your dogs better. How you can do that, I don’t know.”
“That little boy should never have to see them again,” the judge said.
The judge also said he will not allow the pair to have custody of the other two children for as long as he can. He said if the Children Services Board wants them to have custody, they will have to have a hearing over it.
The judge said he was thankful someone paid attention and notified police.
“Thank you to the concerned citizen who made the phone call,” Judge D’Apolito said.
Sara Myers will be allowed to report to prison at a later date while her husband said he wants via sentence to begin immediately. They had been free on bond.