The Richmond Register

June 15, 2012

Couple who left children in filth sentenced to five years in prison

By Ronica Shannon
Register News Writer

RICHMOND —  

Two parents who admitted in May to locking their children in a feces-covered room were sentenced to five years in prison Thursday by Madison Circuit Court Judge William G. Clouse.
“A judge who once sat in this chair used to say, ‘Even a snake takes care of its own,’” Clouse said, quoting a predecessor, James S. Chenault.
Stewart M. and Jennifer A. Shuman, both 23, of Mount Rushmore Drive, were each sentenced on two charges of second-degree criminal abuse, a Class D felony. Five years is the maximum allowable sentence under state law.
The couple was arrested Sept. 8 after Richmond police officers found their two sons locked in a bedroom, according to their report. The room was “covered from floor to ceiling with feces from both children” and door had been tied closed with a bungee cord, the arresting officer wrote.
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, the police report stated.
At a May court hearing, the Shumans both admitted they had placed the children in an “unsafe and potentially harmful” environment.
Public Advocate Timothy Despotes represented Stewart Shuman and asked Clouse if probation would be possible because of his client’s “clean criminal history.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith strongly voiced opposed to probation.
“These two boys were kept bungee-corded in a room with nothing but a Styrofoam chair and a television,” she said. “The one boy was biting the other boy while his parents sat in the living room. The parents have got to be held accountable.”
Public Advocate Meena Mohanty, who represented Jennifer Shuman, also requested probation for her client.
“She has already spent 85 days in custody and this is someone who has never done anything out of meanness,” Mohanty said. “She is someone who clearly loves her children.”
“I can’t look at this case and believe that is clear,” Clouse said. “She had two very active toddlers who thought it was fun to play in their poop,” Mohanty said.
“As a mother, there’s no excuse,” Smith said. 
“The court can’t believe that this is the acceptable treatment of your own children,” Clouse said. 
Register reporter Sarah Hogsed contributed to this story.                                                                
Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.