ESCANABA - An Escanaba man was ordered to spend up to 50 years in prison for convictions of child abuse and criminal sexual conduct against a teen boy. The sentencings were handed down in Delta County Circuit Court Monday.
Carl James Pellinen, 47, was sentenced to 17.5 years to 50 years on one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 25 years to 50 years on one count of first-degree child abuse towards his girlfriend's child. The sentencings are to be served concurrently.
Last week, Pellinen's girlfriend, co-defendant Susan Marie Bardo, was ordered to two concurrent sentences of 20 years to 50 years in prison on one count of torture and one count of first-degree child abuse in connection with the abuse of the same victim, her 15-year-old son.
Carl James Pellinen, 47, of Escanaba, talks to his attorney, Elizabeth LaCosse, before he goes back to jail after being sentenced to up to 50 years in prison Monday in Delta County Circuit Court. (Daily Press photo by Jenny Lancour)
Following an investigation by Escanaba Public Safety, Pellinen and Bardo were arrested on April 12 on felony charges in connection with the abuse of the boy. Crimes date as far back as 2007.
During plea hearings in circuit court in June, each defendant admitted to abusing the boy. Pellinen pleaded guilty to first-degree child abuse and pleaded no contest to first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Bardo pleaded guilty to torture and first-degree child abuse.
Prior to the court's ruling on Monday, Prosecuting Attorney Steve Parks described how Pellinen dominated and abused the boy. The attorney said Pellinen created a "twisted world where the boy was brainwashed" and that the defendant should be held accountable.
Parks said police officers often see the ugly side of humanity and become numb to it until they are shocked by behavior that sets the bar of humanity even lower.
Parks described how officers found the child in a cold dark room, clothed only in dirty underwear and socks with holes. The boy was neglected, tortured and psychologically manipulated in solitary confinement since he was 8 years old, the prosecutor said.
"Most household pets live better than (the victim) did," said Parks.
The prosecutor went on to say the child was denied food and clothing, he had no friends, he experienced no joy or laughter, and didn't attend school since age 8.
Evidence revealed the boy was kept 22 hours a day in an upstairs bedroom made from plastic tarps. At times, he was bound to a chair with tape or rope. He was usually given only one meal a day. He was also sexually abused.
Parks said psychological abuse against the boy was more disturbing than the physical and sexual abuse he suffered. Parks gave the court several examples of how the boy was brainwashed by the defendant.
The victim told officials that Pellinen said he was an international FBI agent from Washington, D.C., who was watching out for him because the boy was evil and people hated him; if the child went outside or looked out the window, he would be shot.
Parks said the victim told medical personnel that Pellinen told him showering was bad for his health, medicine is poison, brushing his teeth was bad, and the boy and his mother were evil.
Parks said Bardo got what she deserved but added that Pellinen was "the primary source of evil in the house." The defendant is a dangerous man without a conscience or compassion, the prosecutor added.
"The harm he caused is unimaginable and unforgivable," commented Parks.
Defense attorney Elizabeth LaCosse described the case as "horrific."
"The biological mother helped create this home," said LaCosse, asking the court to equal her client's sentencing to Bardo's sentencing. The attorney added that Pellinen is remorseful.
Judge Stephen Davis ordered Pellinen to 17.5 years to 50 years on the first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge. Davis said he did not go above the minimum sentencing guidelines of 17.5 years because the count related to a single incident in January.
Davis said he did exceed the minimum guidelines of 18 years and nine months on the first-degree child abuse charge because of severe psychological injuries to the victim. The judge sentenced Pellinen to a minimum of 25 years to a maximum of 50 years in prison on this count.
Pellinen was given credit for 129 days served in the county jail. He was ordered to pay $266 in fines and costs. He was ordered to have no contact with minors, the victim, the victim's caregivers, or Bardo. He must register as a sexual offender.
Prior to sentencing, local attorney James M. Bergman read a statement on behalf of the victim's biological father saying the boy will heal from the abuse; the father's statement also said his only regret was that he could not be present for Pellinen's sentencing.
During Bardo's sentencing on Aug. 13, Davis went above the sentencing guidelines recommendation of 17.5 years incarceration and ordered Bardo to the two concurrent sentencings of 20-50 years imprisonment due to "serious psychological injuries" suffered by the victim.
Bardo was ordered to pay $266 in fines and costs and told to have no contact with minors, the victim, the boy's caregivers, or Pellinen.
Bardo is lodged at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti. Her earliest release date is April 11, 2033, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections' offender tracking website OTIS.