Great-aunt pleads guilty in child abuse case

CANTON, Ohio - A woman given custody of her five grandnieces and grandnephews has admitted that she denied one girl water and forced the other to drink so much water that the girl had a seizure.

Terri Johnson, 45, of Canton, didn't explain her actions or apologize Thursday as she pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering children. She was sentenced to six years in prison by Stark County Common Pleas Judge Sara Lioi.

The 3- and 4-year-old girls, and boys ages 5, 7 and 9, were taken from their parents in July 2002 after an investigation by the county department of Job and Family Services showed the children lacked sufficient clothing, housing and food, according to court records.

The children were placed with their maternal great-aunt and great-uncle, who passed a background check and a safety review of their home.

As late as January 2003, the children's court-appointed guardian, an agency caseworker and school officials all reported the children were doing well, court records show.

On Feb. 14, 2003, the 4-year-old girl was taken to a hospital because of seizures. Doctors said she didn't have enough sodium in her body, likely a result of drinking too much water, according to court records.

The 3-year-old girl was diagnosed with dehydration, and the children were removed from the couple's home.

The boys told a caseworker that their great-aunt forced their sister to drink a gallon of water as punishment. They also said the woman beat them with belts and made them stand in the corner for hours, court records show.

The children are in county custody, but scheduled to be adopted by a family this year, Job and Family Services lawyer Jerry Coleman said.

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