ESCANABA - An Escanaba woman and her boyfriend admitted in court Thursday to abusing her teenage son for years, confining him to a tarp-lined upstairs bedroom where he was sometimes tied to a chair and fed one meal a day. The boy also was the victim of sexual abuse.
Susan Marie Bardo, 46, and her boyfriend, Carl James Pellinen, 47, each entered pleas during separate hearings in Delta County Circuit Court on Thursday.
They were arrested April 12 on charges of first-degree child abuse, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and torture of Bardo's 15-year-old son. Police found the teen living upstairs in an 8-by-10-foot room lined with tarps after responding to a relative's request to check on the child's welfare.
Bardo and Pellinen were scheduled for a preliminary examination in district court on Thursday but waived that right, automatically binding over their cases to circuit court where they agreed to make pleas.
Prosecuting Attorney Steve Parks agreed to dismiss one count against Bardo and Pellinen in exchange for their pleas. One count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct against Bardo was dismissed. One count of torture against Pellinen was dismissed.
Bardo was the first to appear in circuit court where she pleaded guilty to torture and first-degree child abuse. Each felony carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. She will be sentenced in circuit court on Aug. 13.
Pellinen pleaded guilty to first-degree child abuse and pleaded no contest to first-degree criminal sexual conduct (aid & abet), each a life felony. He is scheduled to be sentenced in circuit court on Aug. 19.
During the separate court hearings, both defendants admitted their abusive actions caused severe mental and physical harm to the child as outlined in a confidential psychiatric evaluation of the boy.
After pleading and giving up their rights to a trial, Bardo and Pellinen each answered questions from their attorneys, revealing the living conditions and the abuse the child experienced since 2007.
According to the defendants, the child was kept 22 hours each day in an upstairs bedroom that was lined with plastic tarps. For a period of time, he was bound to a chair with tape or rope.
"He was allowed one meal a day and occasionally a second," Bardo said when answering questions presented by her attorney, John Filoramo.
Bardo also admitted she knowingly did these things to the boy who was also threatened to be hurt or shot if he went outside.
"Was he told he would be picked up by police and brought to a terrible place?" the attorney asked the mother.
"Yes," she replied.
Bardo also admitted to sexually abusing her son.
Pellinen's attorney, Elizabeth LaCosse, said her client pleaded "no contest" to first-degree criminal sexual conduct due to the nature of the offense.
Because of the no contest plea, Pellinen allowed Judge Stephen Davis to use the police report to help determine what happened in regards to this charge. According to Escanaba Public Safety's investigation, Pellinen sexually abused the teen.
Pellinen admitted the boy had stopped going to school several years ago. The child was confined to the upstairs bedroom and, during the past year, there was only a mattress in the room, said Pellinen.
Pellinen and Bardo remain lodged in Delta County Jail without bond.
The teen has been under the care of Child Protective Services.
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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, firstname.lastname@example.org