Prosecutors want to use video in child neglect case

Becky Campbell • Feb 15, 2012 at 11:36 PM

Prosecutors want a jury to see a video of five children in a neglect and abuse case when it goes to trial to show how the children are behind their age group.

The video, prosecutors said, help show how Robert Simons and Mary Ella Tittle neglected their children’s education.

“We want to show the children suffered from educational neglect of an aggravated nature,” Assistant District Attorney General Dennis Brooks told Washington County Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp during a hearing Wednesday.

Simons, 54, and Tittle, 38, are charged with multiple counts of child neglect for allegedly keeping their children out of school and living in filthy conditions. They were arrested in April 2010 when the family was living at 147 Miller Drive.

Washington County sheriff’s officers went there to investigate the educational neglect of the siblings, then ages 7-13. But once investigators arrived, they discovered the children living on a bus and in a camper in the front yard. Neither had running water or bathrooms and were sparse living arrangements for the children, investigators said.

The yard was strewn with trash and the children were using it as a bathroom, according to investigators. The children were removed and placed in foster care where, according to prosecutors, they are thriving. Still, they’re behind where they should be in their social skills and educational level, officials say.

To show that, Brooks and Assistant District Attorney Erin McArdle visited the children last month in their foster home. The prosecutors’ video recorded the children interacting with them and each other, asking at various times for the children to say their numbers or identify colors. In addition to the video, prosecutors also want to introduce notes from Department of Childrens Services workers who interviewed Simons and Tittle during a “child and family” team meeting after their arrest.

Defense attorneys Jim Lonon and Matt Bolton contend those workers were acting as “agents of the state,” and the statements are inadmissible because their clients were not given a Miranda warning prior to talking to the DCS workers. Cupp did not make a decision on the video or other issues Wednesday, but is expected to rule before the trial begins Feb. 27. Simons and Tittle remain jailed on $50,000 bond each.

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