Charges dropped in filthy home cases

Thu, 03/15/2007 - 4:48pm
By: John Munford

DA: law not adequate, but parents deserve prison time

Fayette County prosecutors have dropped criminal charges in two separate cases against Peachtree City parents who were accused of letting their children live in filth and squalor.

Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard said he hated to drop the charges because he felt all those involved deserved jail time based on the disgusting conditions the children were living in. But the law requires proof the children were deprived of food or medical care, or that the suspects caused excessive physical or mental pain, Ballard said.

Prosecutors were unable to get a physician to testify to any of those points, Ballard noted.

“It’s just very frustrating,” he said. "They need to do prison time but I don't have a charge that will stick."

The problem leading to the dropped charges has to do with the way the statute is worded, Ballard explained.

Ballard said there is no statute in Georgia law that fits the case.

The felony child cruelty charges were dropped against Angela Kaetterhenry and her boyfriend Bryan Dennis Evans and also against Michael and Tina O’Toole, Ballard confirmed. Kaetterhenry had remained in jail and was released Thursday after having been locked up for more than 15 months; Evans had been out on a $75,000 bond.

The case against Kaetterhenry and Evans began late June 2005 when police were called to a report of a naked child playing on a neighbor’s parked golf cart in the Clover Reach subdivision. The child apparently wandered away from the home undetected, police said.

The investigation revealed that the children were living in a home that had feces, urine and dirty diapers on the inside.

A police officer testified in a bond hearing that the naked child had hair lice and also fecal matter in the hair. A search of the house revealed dirty diapers that had been stuffed behind the sofa and in holes in the walls of the house, which was being rented at the time.

Police said that Kaetterhenry, who was pregnant at the time, also said that "they" had smoked cocaine two days prior and that Kaetterhenry also had used methamphetamine.

A total of three children were removed from the home, ages 2 to 5, officials said at the time.

The O'Tooles were arrested in September 2005 after officials discovered fecal matter and other trash all over the inside of their home, police said. Five children, ages 3 to 14 years old, who were living at the home at the time were taken into custody by the Department of Family and Children Services.

That investigation was initiated by a request from then part-time municipal court judge Stephen Ott after a city code enforcement case went to court because the exterior of the house was found to be in poor condition.

Peachtree City Police Chief James Murray later said the conditions inside the O'Toole's home could best be described as "squalor."

The house was later condemned as uninhabitable by city officials, partly because of several bedrooms were blocked and there was a significant amount of trash in the back yard, according to Peachtree City Building Official Tom Carty.

Based on the circumstances of the Kaetterhenry case at least, there’s little chance she will ever have custody of her children again, Ballard said. The custody status of the O’Toole children was not known at press time Thursday afternoon.

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Submitted by NOT A GOOD OL BOY on Mon, 03/19/2007 - 1:08pm.

How dumb is the da??? or is it he too scared to try a case that is open and shut. the law reads that this would be cruelty to children. the law says " a parent,guardian, or other person supervising the WELFARE of or having immediate charge or custody of a child under the age of 18 COMMITS the offense of cruelty to children in the first degree when such a person WILLFULLY DEPRIVES THE CHILD OF NECESSARY SUSTENANCE TO THE EXTENT THAT THE CHILD'S HEALTH OR WELL-BEING IS JEOPARDIZED. Ga. code 16-5-70 section a. if anything this is reckless conduct (16-5-60) law " a person who causes bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safty of another person by consciously disregarding a substanitial and unjustifiable risk that his act or ommision will cause harm or endanger the safty of another person and the disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation is guilty of a misdemeaner." If ballard says he did not have enough to charge the parents, then ballard must live in sh** and this must be normal for him. Is this the kind of person we want to handle cases in court? this is not the first time ballard has let a guilty person go, and i assure you it wont be the last unless we as the voters get him out. ( the law quotes were taken out of georgia law enforcement handbook criminal & procedure 2005 - 2006 edition) and can also be checked on the states web site under 16-5-70 or 16-5-60

James_A_White's picture
Submitted by James_A_White on Mon, 03/19/2007 - 10:49am.

I really shouldn't be surprised by this. Ms. Kaetterhenry was a friend of my daughter's in high school and my family did not approve of Kelsey associating with Angela. Let me assure you readers, none of this is new behavior for her. I'm just surprised it took this long for her behavior to have legal ramifications.

James_A_White's picture
Submitted by James_A_White on Mon, 03/19/2007 - 10:43am.

I really shouldn't be surprised by this. Ms. Kaetterhenry was a friend of my daughter's in high school and my family did not approve of Kelsey associating with Angela. Let me assure you readers, none of this is new behavior for her. I'm just surprised it took this long for her behavior to have legal ramifications.

James_A_White's picture
Submitted by James_A_White on Mon, 03/19/2007 - 10:42am.

I really shouldn't be surprised by this. Ms. Kaetterhenry was a friend of my daughter's in high school and my family did not approve of Kelsey associating with Angela. Let me assure you readers, none of this is new behavior for her. I'm just surprised it took this long for her behavior to have legal ramifications.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Sun, 03/18/2007 - 5:43am.

Look, you could raid 20% of the homes in south Atlanta and find kids in this shape. Adults, also.
Might be better to help them clean up rather than jail them.
The whole country of Darfur has head lice, filth, diseases, AIDS, and starvation.
Let's put them all in jail and clean them up and feed them. What say?
I know that's what Jesus would do!

Submitted by IMNSHO on Sun, 03/18/2007 - 10:10am.

African Americans can't get head lice, just an FYI.

Submitted by tonto707 on Sun, 03/18/2007 - 11:03am.

head lice can't live in squalor?

RMEAV8R's picture
Submitted by RMEAV8R on Sun, 03/18/2007 - 11:25am.

but the frequency of infestation is far less than that of caucasians.

Study from NCSU states that "African Americans are reported to have a much lower incidence of head lice than Caucasians, Hispanics or Asian Americans. Pediatric Dermatology cites various studies that suggest the incidence among African American schoolchildren is less than half of one percent, while the incidence among their non-black schoolmates is usually more than 10 percent. Even though African Americans may be less susceptible to infestations, this should not be grounds for complacency as African Americans can, and do, get head lice."

As for your comment on "squalor." What exactly is your point?

“Gentlemen: you have now reached the last point. If anyone of you doesn’t mean business let him say so now. An hour from now will be too late to back out. Once in, you’ve got to see it through. You’ve got to perform without flinching whatever duty is assigned you, regardless of the difficulty or the danger attending it. If it is garrison duty, you must attend to it. If it is meeting fever, you must be willing. If it is the closest kind of fighting, anxious for it. You must know how to ride, how to shoot, how to live in the open. Absolute obedience to every command is your first lesson. No matter what comes you mustn’t squeal. Think it over - all of you. If any man wishes to withdraw he will be gladly excused, for others are ready to take his place.”
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks to Recruits, 1898

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Sun, 03/18/2007 - 8:46am.

Tell me dollar,you throw around so many percentages,20 percent this 30 percent that, where do you get all your stats?

THE BOSS's picture
Submitted by THE BOSS on Sat, 03/17/2007 - 2:52pm.

This should not have taken 15 months.
Isn’t it great to do your job, and then have the DA drop the ball.
How much did this cost Fayette County?
It seems that every politician thinks the tax payers are an endless supply of money.
Don’t you wish you knew what you know now before you voted?
Isn’t it great to have a DA that doesn’t know how to prosecute, only how to defend.
We have a DA that is a legend in his own mind.

What do politicians and baby diapers’ have in common?
They both get full, and need changed very often.

Basmati's picture
Submitted by Basmati on Fri, 03/16/2007 - 2:55pm.

Let me see if I got this straight: kids are running around outside unsupervised and naked, they have feces and lice in their hair and District Attorney Scott Ballard cannot find a single freakin' charge to prosecute the parents on?

Heckuva job you're doing there, Mr. District Attorney.

I agree with you, the parents do deserve some prison time. But you dropped the ball, Scottie, so they'll walk away scot-free, thumbing their collective noses at you and Fayette county.

I think I know now why the Miami mob headquartered their pot growing operation in Fayette county: your timidity as a prosecutor made their decision a no-brainer.

cogitoergofay's picture
Submitted by cogitoergofay on Sat, 03/17/2007 - 1:59pm.

Is Ballard eroding our reputation on being tough on crime? Basmati and BigGun raise some interesting points. One could reason that criminals and their criminal lawyers will generate a reputation of a changed justice environment in Fayette County. If Mr. Ballard has this deep conscience of mercy and compassion from his days representing molesters and other criminals he should select employment substantially different than being our prosecutor. What was the case about probation for the pharmacist with the drugs? I must have missed that story.

Voice of Fayette Future's picture
Submitted by Voice of Fayett... on Fri, 03/16/2007 - 7:40pm.

Mr. "Ready for Trial" Ballard looks like he is now the Probation Pirate. Everybody gets probation from molesters to the pharmacist druggie. Maybe with McBroom leaving the Defender's office we will see a rematch. Chief Murray was correct by a whole bunch on that race. He knew what Ballard would do for the molesters and he was right.

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Sat, 03/17/2007 - 1:37pm.

Harken back to when Ballard found it so important to go to Albany to be a character witness for an already convicted child molester he defended in the past. Heck...everyone in that area including the Albany News Channels were offended by what Ballard did. Why are you guys offended by Ballard's soft stance on crime? That was well known going into the election. Stop whining. You got what you voted for....Wastemoreland, Seabaugh, Logsdon, Smola, Caldwell, and now Ballard. By the way? Just who is it that is confirmed to be running against Caldwell this time? Is it that Morosik dude again?

Submitted by thebiggun on Sat, 03/17/2007 - 10:56am.

Voice of Fayette you are right about this subject. Fayette has always been safer then most places not just because we have great law enforcement here, but it has always been a tough court system and hang him high judges. Sadly that has started to change. I read the arrest reports and still see great cases being made by all the agencies in the county but now I read of all the plea cases the DA's office is offering to criminals in Fayette County. This is what happened to Fulton, Clayton and all the other high crime counties. Pretty hard to elect a lawyer that has been a defense lawyer all his life and turn him into a DA.

I hear from law enforcement that certain defense lawyers can get anything things they want from the DA because they were buddies before he was elected. Judge shopping has become the rule of the day at the court house.

If you value your property and safety you need to be telling the DA that you are not going to stand for his failure to be tough. I have been asking different law enforcement officers what they think of this DA and always say "He Has To Go" Maybe we should be listening to them more often as they deal with him and his staff every day.

Submitted by happynottobeasnob on Wed, 03/21/2007 - 8:19am.

This circuit does not involve Fayette County, but includes Spalding, Pike, and Upson. Just because you don't agree with some things does not give you the right to go around and bash people. The DA is a good man who has really tried to instill a spirit of compassion and punishment into the same job for all, and that is tough to do with everyone looking at you with a microscope. In addition, law enforcement officers are never satisfied with the DA's because they want the max punishment for all the people they arrest, yet they do not see the overall picture of how prosecuting goes. Instead of constantly bashing Mr Ballard, try and offer support. I am beginning to think that you people want things to go wrong so that you will have something to do during the day.

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