ESCANABA - The judge who sentenced an Escanaba couple to up to 50 years in prison for abusing a child they claimed they were home-schooling, questioned how the criminal behavior could go undetected for so many years.
"If it can happen here, it can happen at other places," said Delta County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Davis prior to sentencing Carl James Pellinen to up to 50 years incarceration for child abuse and criminal sexual conduct Monday.
Pellinen, 47, and his girlfriend, Susan Marie Bardo, 46, both of Escanaba, admitted to abusing Bardo's 15-year-old son by keeping him in an upstairs bedroom made from tarps, feeding him only one meal a day, and clothing him in just underwear and socks. Pellinen brainwashed the boy and also forced the teen to have sex with his mother.
Last week, Davis sentenced Bardo to up to 50 years imprisonment on charges of torture and child abuse dating back to 2007.
In addition to the physical harm, the child also suffered severe psychological injuries due to prolonged and extreme abuse, said Davis, quoting doctor reports.
The boy was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. He was significantly malnourished and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and delusion due to abuse, stated Davis. The child is also developmentally delayed, lacks reasoning skills, and has severe attention deficit disorder, he added.
The teen is in need of extensive long-term care and may not be able to be rehabilitated because of the extent of his injuries that go beyond physical harm, said Davis, wondering how this abuse continued without anyone's interaction.
Home schooling should never be used for abusing a child, he said, questioning if the system failed and why it failed.
Davis said he hoped there would be an investigation into why these crimes went undetected for so many years. The "culpable person" should be held accountable, he added.
Escanaba Public Safety found the abused child in his home on April 12 after a relative requested police check on the boy's welfare. He had not been in school since second grade, when he was 8 years old.