LORAIN — Erica Perez was sentenced to probation Tuesday after pleading no contest to charges of allowing seven of her children to live in a filthy home with little to no food and only one bed.
“There’s so many women out there that can’t get pregnant, that would do anything to have a child, and you have children, so many of them, and when people see that you’re blessed, and the way you could neglect them,’’ Lorain Municipal Court Judge Thomas Elwell said. “... Fortunately, none of them were seriously injured, although I’m sure that was probably going to happen somewhere along the line if law enforcement didn’t intervene.”
Perez pleaded no contest and was found guilty of seven counts of child endangering, as well as resisting arrest.
Elwell sentenced Perez to six months in jail for each of the seven child endangering charges but suspended the jail time in exchange for intensive probation on the condition that Perez stay out of trouble the next three years. Conditions of the probation are likely to include drug treatment, regular drug testing and parenting classes, according to Genso Soto, a court bailiff.
A positive drug test could lead to Perez having to serve the rest of her sentence. Elwell also imposed $400 in fines.
Prosecutor Jeff Szabo called the facts of Perez’s case “very disturbing” and sought jail time while acknowledging Perez has served a combined 186 days in jail and inpatient drug treatment after her arrest. He said it was reported that Perez did “next to nothing” at a substance abuse program through Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services.
But attorney William Willis, representing Perez, told the court that Perez is remorseful and she had been taking steps to reach sobriety, including completing the LCADA program. He said Lorain County Children Services is working to permanently place Perez’s children with other families, but he would not discuss the children’s placement due to confidentiality concerns.
“This has been an eye-opener for her. This has been very embarrassing and very hurtful for all parties — herself and the children included,” Willis said.
Perez briefly addressed the court before the judge sentenced her.
“I just want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn things about myself, and that this disease that I have with addiction stems from more than just myself being here today, but from issues in my childhood,” she said.
She was arrested July 5 after police found her yelling at her neighbors, intoxicated, while seven of her children — an eighth child was not home — were found dirty and neglected.
Perez had been involved with Children Services in the past, including 15 different investigations into her parenting while she lived at 13 different homes, according to court documents. Perez’s children were taken away from her by the agency only to be returned again in 2008.
During the investigations, Children Services noted that Perez failed to follow through on her case plans and did not submit drug and alcohol evaluations, as requested.
Reporter Evan Goodenow contributed to this story. Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.