ESCANABA - After torturing and abusing her own child while imprisoning him in his room for years, an Escanaba woman was ordered to spend up to 50 years in prison during her sentencing in Delta County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Susan Marie Bardo, 46, sat with her head down while Judge Stephen Davis went above and beyond the 17.5-year sentencing guidelines recommendation. Davis ruled she spend two concurrent prison sentences of 20-50 years for torture and first-degree child abuse of her 15-year-old son since 2007.
Due to "serious psychological injuries" to the victim, Davis stated he departed upward from the sentencing guidelines. He described the damage done to the child as "substantial" especially as reported in the evaluation of his cognitive screening.
According to the medical report, the teen's social development has been harmed and may never be remediated, said Davis, concerned whether extensive rehabilitation can offer the slightest hope of recovery.
Bardo and her boyfriend, Carl James Pellinen, 47, were arrested on April 12 following Escanaba Public Safety's investigation into alleged abuse of Bardo's son. Bardo and Pellinen were lodged in Delta County Jail on felony charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree child abuse, and torture.
In June, Bardo pleaded guilty to torture and first-degree child abuse. The criminal sexual conduct charge was dismissed.
Pellinen pleaded guilty to first-degree child abuse and pleaded no contest to first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The torture charge was dismissed. He is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in circuit court.
During Tuesday's hearing, Delta County Prosecutor Steve Parks told the court that this case has bothered a lot of people especially because it happened "in our own backyard" and involved a mother abusing her own son.
Parks said the pediatrician who met with the victim, cried when he went home that day; a detective commented that the four dogs in the home were treated better than the boy.
After the second grade, the mother pulled the child from school to be home-schooled "for religious reasons," said Parks. In reality, the son "was silenced" from school and police authorities, the attorney said.
Parks described the child's life as "a living hell" of brain washing, inhumane cruelty, and sexual abuse.
"Hugely important years were stolen from him," Parks said, adding the child was denied intellectual and social development.
"These injuries are way more severe than broken bones or burned flesh," the prosecutor said.
According to previous testimony from the defendants, the child was kept 22 hours a day in an upstairs bedroom lined with plastic tarps. For a period of time, he was bound to a chair with tape or rope. The child was fed once a day, maybe twice. The boy was threatened to be hurt or shot if he went outside. He was sexually abused.
The victim's biological father appeared in court Tuesday when a statement from him was read on his behalf by local attorney John M. Bergman.
Describing this as the most horrific life experience he's ever been involved in, the father's statement said he had no sympathy for Bardo because she had no sympathy for their son. Though he's hopeful his son can heal and function as an individual in society, the father said the boy will not have a normal life because of the emotional, mental and physical abuse he has suffered.
"I praise God, Susan didn't kill the boy," the father's statement concluded.
When Bardo was given the opportunity to make a statement prior to being sentenced, she apologized to her son for not standing up for him and she apologized to the community for her not asking for help. She also asked the judge to be lenient on her sentencing because she was victimized as a child.
Bardo's attorney, John Filoramo, said his client was sexually abused as a child every day for three years. The perpetrator was sentenced to prison and has since died but Bardo never received the counseling she needed; this explains why a loving mother would do what she did, her attorney said.
"I ask the court to take into consideration she is a victim," said Filoramo, adding Bardo acknowledged her responsibilities and also has no prior criminal record.
Filoramo asked the court to follow the guidelines and not deviate from the recommended sentencing.
In addition to the 20-to-50-year prison sentence, Judge Davis ordered Bardo to pay $266 in fines and costs. She was told to have no contact with minors, the victim or his caregivers, or Pellinen.
The 25-minute hearing ended with sheriff deputies escorting Bardo back to the county jail to be transferred to a state prison.
- - -
Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, firstname.lastname@example.org