ELYRIA - The Amherst couple whose home 3-year-old Jesse Crum Jr. lived in prior to his March 2010 death received probation Friday for creating a dangerous environment for Jesse and his younger half-brother by growing marijuana inside their house.
Dallas Jones, 56, and Therese Jones, 51, had pleaded guilty earlier this year to endangering children and drug charges for their marijuana growing operation, which Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Laura Dezort described Friday as large enough that the drug could be smelled by anyone stepping onto the front porch.
Although Dezort urged county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi to impose a harsher sentenced, Miraldi said he could only punish the Joneses for the crimes they'd been convicted of. Prosecutors dropped additional endangering children charges stemming from Jesse's death as part of the plea bargain in the case.
Dezort said Jesse had been badly beaten and that both Alyson Sweany, Jesse's mother, and Peter Jones, Sweany's boyfriend, had marijuana in their systems when the boy died.
"Clearly there was a risk because Jesse is no longer with us," Dezort said.
Jesse was flown to Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland on March 12, 2010, and died a few days later.
An autopsy determined that the boy died from blunt head trauma, brain hemorrhages and pneumonia.
Jesse's paternal grandmother, Christina Crum, has said that her grandson was beaten by Peter Jones and the abuse was ignored by Sweany and Dallas and Therese Jones, who were Peter Jones' parents.
Peter Jones hanged himself in June 2010, shortly before he was due in court for sentencing on endangering children charges for a January 2009 incident in which he scalded Jesse while giving the boy a bath. Peter Jones died before charges were brought in connection with Jesse's death.
Supporters of Sweany contend that no abuse took place and insist the multiple bruises and other injuries on Jesse were caused a few days before he was taken to the hospital. They have said a bookcase in the Jones house - where Jesse, Sweany, Peter Jones and Jesse's half-brother lived - fell on the boy when he was climbing on it.
Sweany's family argues that several items, including a laptop computer, fell on the boy, who never told anyone about the incident. They said Jesse appeared normal for days after the incident and that he was taken to the hospital when he began acting strangely.
Patricia Jones, Dallas and Therese Jones' daughter, said her parents took in Sweany and her family when they had no place else to go. She said they have both stopped smoking marijuana and are receiving treatment and therapy.
She said that even when she was growing up, she never saw marijuana and - despite her parents' love of marijuana - had never even seen them smoking the drug. She said they kept their bedroom door locked at all times.
"They're good people, and they have absolutely nothing to do with Jesse's death," Patricia Jones said.
Dallas and Therese Jones declined to comment before Miraldi imposed the sentence, although Dallas Jones did dispute how much marijuana police found in his home when it was searched for evidence regarding Jesse's death. He said much of the marijuana was useless parts of the plants that had accumulated over the years and he never got around to getting rid of.
Dezort disagreed with that assessment.
Mike Duff and Dan Wightman, the lawyers representing the Joneses, also insisted that the drugs were only for their clients' personal use and were never sold.
Following the hearing, Christina Crum said she hopes that Jesse's half-brother will be safer around the Joneses than her grandson was.
"They admitted they failed baby Jesse," Crum said. "They failed as grandparents."
Also Friday, Miraldi barred Sweany, who has pleaded guilty to endangering children charges and is awaiting sentencing, from having contact with the Crum family as a condition of remaining free on bond.
Crum sought and received a temporary civil stalking protection order earlier this week because of harassing and profanity-laced text messages and voicemails she said Sweany left for her. Dezort said that order will be dropped now that Miraldi has barred Sweany from having any contact with the Crum family.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or email@example.com.