A Fort Wayne mother accused of ignoring the physical and mental abuse her boyfriend dished out on her four young children will not spend any time behind bars.
She will also have the chance to regain custody of her children at some point.
Despite a call for prison time from an Allen County deputy prosecutor, an Allen Superior Court judge gave 27-year-old Breezy G. Parker a suspended sentence Monday.
Parker, of the 2800 block of Schele Avenue, previously pleaded guilty to four felony counts of neglect of a dependent.
Allen Superior Court documents outlined a pattern of abuse inflicted on Parker’s children by 22-year-old Antonio Henderson that included punching, whipping, choking and threats to throw the children in a cage with a 6-foot boa constrictor.
The children – at the time a 1-year-old girl and three boys, then ages 4, 5 and 8 – also suffered physical injuries such as bruises, scratches and in at least one instance a skull fracture, according to the court documents.
Testimony during Parker’s sentencing hearing Monday showed that at least one of the children told her about the abuse Henderson was inflicting on her kids, but she continued to leave them in his care.
“There’s no way you can live in a household and not know what was going on,” said Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Pikel while arguing for a 10-year prison sentence. “Giving a suspended sentence minimizes what she did.”
But Judge John F. Surbeck decided that, while the details of the case were horrendous, prison time would not help Parker.
He sentenced her to eight years for each count, suspended all of that time and then ordered her to serve five years on probation.
“The knee-jerk reaction would be to acquiesce to the state and put her in prison for 10 years, but if I did that I don’t think any real interest would be served other than we might momentarily feel better,” Surbeck said.
Surbeck also heard testimony from an attorney representing the children who said they are in foster care and wish to go home to be with their mother.
The attorney said the Indiana Department of Child Services wants to reunite the family, as long as Henderson – who is in Allen County Jail awaiting his own sentencing – is not involved.
Prosecutors argued that Child Services has already tried that once, producing documentation that Henderson had been investigated by the agency for abuse in August 2011 and was ordered out of Parker’s home at that time.
The following October, though, is when Parker’s sister called police and said the abuse continued. At a hospital after that call, the children were found to have bruises, scratches and other wounds of various nature and ages, according to testimony and court documents.
The girl had a fractured skull, according to court documents, and one of the children told detectives that Henderson made him and his brothers give her a “blanket party.”
“This is a military punishment where soldiers throw a blanket over another soldier who is under performing and strike them,” court documents explained, adding that Henderson had been in the military.
Prosecutors also noted that, with her children at the emergency room and police involved, Parker at first refused to leave work to go and check on them and speak with detectives.
She also communicated with Henderson while he was in jail, prosecutors said.
“I’ve never heard anyone argue that DCS be incarcerated for not protecting their charges,” said Surbeck, before noting that the agency has dedicated workers. “The purpose of sentencing is not to send a message to the community.”
Surbeck noted that by all accounts presented to him, Parker is complying with Child Services officials in making sure her home is safe for her and her children.
In his sentencing, he allowed that Parker have supervised visitation with her children for the next six months. After that, officials will decide what to do next.
Earlier this month, Henderson pleaded guilty to four felony counts of neglect of a dependent and four felony counts of battery of someone who is less than 14 years old.
He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.