A couple accused of locking their two toddlers in a feces-covered room admitted Thursday that they had placed the children in an “unsafe and potentially harmful” environment.
Stewart M. and Jennifer A. Shuman, both 23, pleaded guilty in Madison Circuit Court to two charges each of second-degree criminal abuse. They originally had been indicted on two charges each of first-degree criminal abuse.
Under the original charges, the Shumans could have received maximum sentences of 20 years each. Commonwealth’s Attorney David Smith recommended concurrent sentences of five years for each abuse charge, resulting in a total of five years in prison for each of the parents.
Smith said first-degree criminal abuse indicates intentionally abusing someone, while the language for second-degree abuse indicates the perpetrator “wantonly” abused someone.
The couple had been scheduled for a jury trial May 14.
Stewart Shuman told Judge William Clouse that the cleanliness of the household in which his two children, ages 2 and 3, were living in had deteriorated to a condition that was “unsafe and potentially harmful to our children.”
Jennifer Shuman made a similar admission when entering her guilty plea.
“The kids’ room was filled with feces and was unsafe for them,” she said.
The Shumans, of Mount Rushmore Drive, were arrested Sept. 8 when Richmond police officers found their two sons locked in a bedroom, according to the report. The room was “covered from floor to ceiling with feces from both children,” the arresting officer wrote.
The door had been tied together with a bungee cord, according to the report.
Jennifer Shuman reportedly told police the children had been kept in the room for about a week because she and her husband could not control them. The children also had numerous bruises, and the younger child had bite marks on his arms, according to the report.
The children were placed under state care after their parents were arrested. After entering their plea, Stewart Shuman’s attorney, Tim Despotes, asked Clouse to allow the Shumans to visit their children. Despotes said state social services had recommended supervised visits, but the couple needed the judge’s approval.
“They’ve done all the classes they need to do ... to have supervised visits,” Despotes said.
“Let’s wait until sentencing,” Smith said of the request, and Clouse agreed.
The Shumans are scheduled for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. June 14. They both have been free on bond since December.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6694.