TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) -- A western Indiana man who confined three of his adopted children to their bedroom for weeks, depriving them of food, water and bathroom access, has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Larry Russell of Terre Haute was sentenced Wednesday by Vigo Superior Court Judge John Roach, who told the defendant that he had treated the three boys “like animals,” the Tribune-Star reported.
Russell, 40, had pleaded guilty to neglect and criminal confinement charges. Defense attorney Matthew Daley had asked the court to sentence Russell to eight years that could be suspended to work release.
The judge ordered that Russell must serve all of his sentence in prison with no probation. But because of state rules for felony sentencing, plus credit for time served and the potential for so-called “good time” credit, Russell could serve only about four additional years.
Four adopted children lived with Russell and his wife, Nikki, along with their biological child. Nikki Russell is scheduled to enter a guilty plea Nov. 19 to charges in the case.
Roach told Russell he treated the boys in an appalling manner after adopting them and a fourth child, the newspaper reported. All four had previously lived as foster children with the couple.
“You took them in. You locked them up. And you treated them like animals,” the judge said.
Russell read a letter in court accepting responsibility.
“I’m ashamed of my actions that led to all of these charges,” he said. “I didn’t possess proper skills to parent correctly.”
The Russells were arrested in November 2012 after one of their adopted children escaped the family’s home and sought help for two of his adoptive siblings.
That teen told police he and two brothers had been locked in an upstairs bedroom with no access to food, water or bathroom facilities and that he had one of his brothers had been tied with rope to their beds.
Police described that 17-year-old as underweight, with dried blood on his face and visible signs of ligature marks on his arms where he had been tied to an object.
After serving a search warrant at the home, police found holes and tunnels that the boys had allegedly created so that they could escape from their room to get food and water and access to the bathroom.
Testimony from a Department of Child Services caseworker revealed that the teen, who had escaped through a bedroom window and was found wandering the streets seeking help, weighed 82 pounds when he was found. That boy gained 52 pounds in the three months following his removal from the home.