COLUMBUS -- A 42-year-old Creston mother admitted she abused two of her three adopted children last fall while punishing them excessively for household infractions.
Defendant Janelle Gertsch entered her pleas in Platte County District Court to three counts of felony child abuse in exchange for the prosecution dismissing two additional abuse charges.
District Court Judge Robert Steinke scheduled sentencing for July 19. Gertsch was set to stand trial on the charges Tuesday.
The abuse charges are all Class IIIA felonies, each punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
Gertsch and her live-in boyfriend, Larry Einspahr Jr., 44, both were charged with abusing her 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter in episodes state officials characterized as excessive discipline.
The Creston woman was the custodial parent of three adopted children, including a second daughter, age 13. She is divorced from the adoptive father.
State officials removed all three children from the family home because of the excessive discipline.
The judge said Einspahr engaged in a “systematic” pattern of physically abusing two of his girlfriend’s three adopted children in the family home.
Einspahr was previously convicted of assault in 1994 and 1998, a protection order violation in 2000 and resisting arrest in 2003. The child abuse counts were his first felony convictions.
Court documents in the case describe an investigation that got under way after school officials were made aware in late November of bruising and swelling injuries on the boy's and 9-year-girl's lower backs.
The boy and girl recounted to law enforcement authorities being beaten excessively during incidents of punishment.
The boy, said Platte County Sheriff’s Investigator Joseph Gragert in his arrest statement, described an incident in which he was struck “repeatedly” on the face by his mother in an open-handed manner after not performing a household chore.
The boy said the injuries to his face were so severe that his mother wouldn’t allow him to go to church and kept him home from school for the entire next week, which was confirmed by school attendance records.
“He was also sequestered to his basement room for several days, kept away from his sisters so they wouldn’t see how bad his injuries were and tell someone," Gragert said.