CLEVELAND (AP) - The parents of an 8-year-old boy who died from Hodgkin lymphoma after suffering for months from undiagnosed swollen glands were sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday following their guilty pleas to denying him medical treatment.
The couple was given the maximum sentence by Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Astrab, who accepted their guilty pleas last month to attempted involuntary manslaughter in a last-minute plea deal before their trial was about to begin. They were handcuffed and taken into custody immediately. Both plan to appeal the sentence.
“I loved my son,” Robinson told the judge, occasionally wiping his eyes with a tissue. He said he was sorry.
“I tried to help my son,” Hussing said as family members in the courtroom quietly sobbed.
Hussing’s sister, Shelia Slawinski, cried as she stood before the judge and gave voice to her nephew, Willie Robinson: “I am so in pain … please take me to the doctor … the last four weeks have been the most painful.”
“I told my sister,” Slawinski said. “I offered to help my sister.”
According to the prosecution’s pre-sentencing memo to the judge, at least eight family members noticed Willie’s deteriorating health over a period of more than two years and most spoke to the couple about it. One relative described the boy’s swollen neck glands as the size of a softball.
“Twenty-nine months he suffered,” Slawinski said. “Twenty-nine months they had to do something and they chose not to.”
Asked outside court why her sister hadn’t taken care of Willie and hadn’t enrolled him or three siblings in school, Slawinski said it was easier for Hussing to stay in bed during the day and do drugs. Both parents have abused drugs, their attorneys earlier told the judge.
The judge looked surprised and asked the teen if she would be willing to repeat her statements under oath and possible penalty of perjury. She did.
The judge compared the autopsy photo of Willie’s emaciated body to concentration camp victims. “If anybody, anybody, didn’t know this kid was sick, they are seriously, seriously disturbed,” Astrab said.
Two doctors told the judge before the sentencing that no sick child would be turned away from a hospital.
Willie Robinson collapsed at his home on March 22, 2008. Prosecutors say he had begged his parents to take him to see a doctor but was rejected. Hodgkin lymphoma is a highly treatable cancer.