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State v. Moss

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Ashtabula

June 12, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
REJEANA MOSS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Criminal Appeal from the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2015 CR 136.

          Nicholas A. Iarocci, Ashtabula County Prosecutor, and Shelley M. Pratt, Assistant Prosecutor, Ashtabula County Courthouse, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          Matthew C. Bangerter, (For Defendant-Appellant).


          THOMAS R. WRIGHT, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, Rejeana Moss, appeals the trial court's imposition of a ten-year prison term on five third-degree felonies as excessive. She contends that the term must be reduced because the trial court did not consider statutory sentencing factors favorable to her. We affirm.

         {¶2} During the relevant time period, appellant and her husband, co-defendant David Moss, lived in a single-family dwelling in Dorset Township, Ashtabula County, Ohio. In July 2001, the couple became foster parents to R.M. Two years later, they adopted him. R.M. continued to reside with the Mosses until he turned eighteen years old in November 2009.

         {¶3} In 2003, the couple became foster parents to three other children, R.D.M., A.E.M., and S.J.M, all biologically related. The oldest of the three, R.D.M. a ten-year-old boy, is developmentally disabled. The other two, both girls, were six and three when they first started living with the Mosses. Like R.M., the Mosses adopted these children.

         {¶4} Initially, the three related children attended public schools. At some point prior to 2011, though, the Mosses withdrew the children from public schools and educated them at home.

         {¶5} On August 26, 2013, the two girls surreptitiously left the home and took the Mosses' vehicle without their knowledge. Neither child had a driver's license and they were quickly involved in a minor traffic accident. The girls were charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in juvenile court. As part of the accident investigation, the girls made statements to authorities concerning how they were treated by the Mosses. The statements led to a separate investigation into the condition of the Mosses' residence by the county sheriff's department and children's services. After investigation, the authorities removed all three of the related children from the Mosses' custody.

         {¶6} The investigation revealed that the three children were primarily living in two bedrooms, the girls in one and the boy in the other. Each bedroom had a padlock allowing the children to be locked inside. The windows in the girls' bedroom were covered with plywood, and the curtains over the only window in the boy's bedroom were stapled to the woodwork. The children could not look out their windows and could not leave their rooms unless someone unlocked the doors. Furthermore, the only furniture was one bed for each child. All other bedroom furniture and the children's clothes were in the hallway outside the bedrooms. In addition, the girls' bedroom had two buckets and toilet paper, while the boy's bedroom contained a metal can.

         {¶7} According to the girls, during the two-year period from 2011 through their removal from the Mosses' home, all three children were locked in their bedrooms for at least twenty hours every day. While inside the bedrooms, they were not allowed to have anything, including reading material, and wore only minimal clothing, such as underwear. The children were permitted to leave their bedrooms three to four times a day to eat or use the bathroom.

         {¶8} The children were regularly subjected to corporal punishment, usually by means of a homemade paddle. The punishment was normally meted out by David Moss for errors in the children's homework. According to the girls, the paddle was used so often and harshly that it had red blood stains. Each girl asserted that appellant physically abused her on multiple occasions. According to A.E.M. appellant once choked her and hit her head so hard against the wall that her teeth split her lip.

         {¶9} Eighteen months after removal of the three children, the county grand jury issued a nine-count indictment against appellant, charging her with three counts of endangering children, three counts of kidnapping, and three counts of felonious assault. Three months later, the grand jury returned a second indictment, charging her with one additional count of each offense.

         {¶10} Appellant ultimately pleaded guilty to four counts of endangering children, third-degree felonies under R.C. 2919.22(B)(2), and one amended count of attempted felony assault, a third-degree felony under R.C. 2923.02(A) and 2903.11(A)(1). The state dismissed the remaining seven charges. The trial court found appellant guilty on all ...

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