The parents convicted of neglecting their five children for not enrolling them in school and living in squalor placed blame on each other Thursday during their sentencing hearing.
Robert Simons III, 55, and Mary Tittle, 39, both testified in the hearing. It was the first time either has spoken publicly since their arrest in March 2010.
They were both convicted of two counts of aggravated child neglect, four counts of felony child neglect and two counts of misdemeanor child neglect charges after a jury trial last month.
After Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp heard the testimony and arguments from attorneys, he sentenced Simons to 18 years in prison and Tittle to 17 years. Both will be eligible for parole after they serve 30 percent of their sentence — a little more than five years for each of them.
The two most serious convictions were due to their neglect of their only daughter — not only the educational neglect, but also the parents’ failure to provide adequate care for the girl’s serious kidney disease.
Given that they have been in custody two years, the pair could be up for parole in three years.
Tittle took the stand first and said it was Simons’ controlling nature that prevented her from enrolling their children in school. She said a school bus passed their Miller Drive home every day and her kids wanted to ride it.
“I wanted to let them get on that school bus, but (Simons) wouldn’t,” she said.
Tittle said the kids were afraid of their father and he was often verbally abusive to them. Tittle said Simons would never leave her alone with all the children.
“I think he was afraid I would run off, which he was right. I probably would,” Tittle said. That never happened, she said, because “I didn’t have a way out.”
When their daughter, who suffered from a severe kidney disorder, went to doctors’ appointments, Tittle said she often had to stay with the boys and was not allowed to do the talking when she did see the doctors.
Tittle, who does have a high school education, also said she tried to teach the kids what she could, but it wasn’t very successful.
During Tittle’s testimony, Simons often shook his head and leaned over to tell his attorney something.
Tittle said she is happy with where her children are now and knows they’re being taken care of.
“They’re with good people. I’m really lucky they’re all together,” she said.
That was the one point Tittle and Simons apparently agree on. Simons also said he knew the children were being cared for.
Other than that, Simons testified that many of Tittle’s statements surprised him. He said he told Tittle over and over to get the kids in school and claimed he was unable to do it because he can’t read or write.
He said Tittle had a vehicle and all the family’s money and had the freedom to go anywhere she wanted.
Simons said their oldest son did attend school initially, but he was thrown out because of behavioral problems. The couple never attempted to get the other kids in school, he said.
When asked if he was physically abusive to Tittle or the kids, Simons said no and offered to show Cupp scars from knife injuries he said Tittle inflicted on him.
“It hurts me a lot that I can’t see those kids. We both love our kids. These kids was my life,” Simons said. He also proclaimed his continued love for Tittle.
As Simons testified, Tittle kept her head down and didn’t look at him.
The couple have surrendered their parental rights, which clears the way for the children to be adopted. The foster parents have said they plan to adopt all five kids.