Ohio Couple Convicted Of Chaining Daughter To Bed Before Apartment Fire

COSHOCTON, Ohio -- A couple have been convicted of felony child endangerment for leaving their 4-year-old daughter chained to her crib during an apartment fire.

Gerald Stewart, 33, and Ridgley Allington, 36, could each receive up to eight years in prison. They were released on their own recognizance after the hearing Wednesday before Coshocton County Common Pleas Judge Richard Evans.

Authorities said the couple left behind Karen Stewart, now 5 and in foster care, when they escaped a July 23 fire at their Coshocton duplex. Firefighters rescued the youngster, and she was hospitalized 11 days to treat second-degree burns.

Daniel Davis, a psychologist who interviewed the couple and their daughter, testified that the parents chained the child to the bed for three months to prevent her from wandering at night. The couple believed that doing so would protect her from hurting herself, Davis said.

The couple lacked judgment and parenting skills but didn't intend to harm their daughter, said Terry Baxter, the assistant county public defender who represented the couple at their trial.

Prosecutor Robert Batchelor praised the conviction.

``The defendants escaped. They got out of the fire,'' he said. ``But Karen Stewart could not get out. And that is cruel.''

The county's children services agency has asked the Coshocton County Juvenile Court to grant it permanent custody of the girl. No hearing date has been set.