Ohioans accused of abandoning boy plead not guilty

LISA CORNWELL
Associated Press
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Judge James Cissell, right, talks with twin sisters Lauriana and Laylah, 5, after they were adopted by Greg Smith, top left, and his wife Robin Smith, top center, along with their brother Laurence, 8, front left, and sister Liasia, 12, top right, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, in Cincinnati. The Smiths adopted all four siblings to keep them together as a family. They have cared them as foster children for over three years. Robin Smith acknowledged some anger and other issues among the children, stemming from their experiences before coming to the Smiths. "But you just can't give up on children, not matter how hard the situation is," she said. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — A southwest Ohio couple accused of abandoning the adopted 9-year-old son they raised from infancy by giving him to child welfare officials pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Cleveland Cox, 49, and Lisa Cox, 52, are charged with nonsupport of dependents. Authorities allege the couple from Liberty Township near Middletown left the boy with children's services after saying he was displaying aggressive behavior and earlier threatened the family with a knife. Trial is scheduled for Feb. 10.

A defense attorney and prosecutor declined to comment after the hearing in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser, has said there are legal consequences to what he called "reckless" abandonment.

The couple had been scheduled for a hearing in juvenile court later Wednesday on a civil complaint filed by the county's children's services agency. The magistrate granted a request by the couple's attorney, Anthony VanNoy, to delay that hearing until after the criminal case is concluded.

VanNoy declined to comment afterward other than to say the cases involve "very difficult issues."

National adoption advocates say failed adoptions or dissolutions are rare in cases where the child was raised from infancy, and such discord seems to occur more often with youths adopted at an older age.

People within the adoption community say they worry about emotional trauma to the boy. They say giving up a child after so much time is rare and undermines the stability and commitment that adopted children need.

Adolfo Olivas, an attorney appointed by the court to protect the boy's interests, also declined to comment Wednesday. He has said the emotionally hurt and confused child is now receiving help that the parents should have gotten for him.

The couple could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.