Ohio mother sentenced after officer finds 7-year-old boy selling teddy bear for food

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FRANKLIN, Ohio -- The mother of a 7-year-old boy, who was found wandering the streets, is going to jail.

Police found the boy outside a CVS in August trying to sell his teddy bear for money to buy food for himself and his brothers. He was found to have not eaten for several days.

Photos from the home of Michael and Tammi Bethel show the deplorable conditions police found.

Officers found rotting food, cockroaches, strewn clothing and a nauseating smell. The children were removed from the home and the parents were charged.

"This isn't the first time your children have been removed from your care," judge Rupert Ruppert told Tammi Bethel. "It's not the second time the children have been removed from your care. It's not the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth time they have been removed from your care. This is the seventh time that these children have been removed from your household because of the same conditions."

Bethel pleaded guilty to two counts of child endangering. She could have faced up to 2 1/2 years in prison, but Ruppert gave her six months for each count.

"I love my kids and I will do anything that I have to do, if that means sitting in jail for a year or six months or however long, I will do it to make sure I get my kids back," she said.

"You claim that you love your children. I don't doubt that you love them, but you have a very strange way of showing it in the way you are providing care for them," Ruppert said.

Tammi Bethel said she felt ill after being sentenced and was taken to a hospital for treatment. WLWT reported Michael Bethel was also expected to be sentenced Friday, but he also was hospitalized.

Tammi Bethel told Ruppert she filed for divorce from her alcoholic husband and will make a new life in a different home for her family once she's released.

"That way I can get away from him because I cannot continue to take care of a grown man that won't take care of himself and my children," she said.

"She accepted responsibility for everything that happens," Bethel's attorney said. "Honestly, she was charged with five counts, we got it down to two counts, and honestly it could have been way worse."


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