Archived Story

Couple sent to prison for abusing child with belt

Published 11:27am Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Willow Wood couple recently found guilty of child endangerment did not get the leniency they were hoping for Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court and instead will spend the next two and a half years in prison.

The attorney representing Jessica and Travis Neal asked Judge D. Scott Bowling to consider probation rather than the prison term recommended by the state.

“Community control sanctions would not demean the seriousness of the offense,” Brian Jones, the couple’s attorney, said. “The Neals regret everyday what they did and how they hurt him (Jessica’s son). They didn’t mean to hurt him.”

Jones said placing the couple on probation would allow Travis to keep his job and even a sentence in the county jail would allow the two to pick up with their lives more easily after completing the punishment.

The Neals were found guilty of third-degree child endangerment and misdemeanor assault following a two-day jury trial this past week. The jury determined the use of a belt that left dark bruising on about two-thirds of Jessica’s son’s back and on his buttocks was excessive. The boy was 6 years old at the time of the incident in December.

“We are truly, truly sorry for what happened,” Travis said. “We were only trying to discipline him, to get him on the straight and narrow like my father did myself.”

Jessica told the court they have since learned other ways to discipline her son.

“I wish everyday I could do it over,” she said.

Bowling sentenced each to 30 months in prison and six months in the county jail, to run concurrently.

“There are no winners here,” Bowling said. “I’m bound to protect those individuals who cannot protect themselves.”

The judge said he would consider a judicial release from prison after a minimum amount of time served and on the condition of good behavior.

Jones notified the court the Neals wanted to appeal the case and asked for a stay of execution pending the outcome of the appeal. The stay was denied and the Neals were taken into custody.

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