Tuesday, Nov. 18

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State's attorney seeks heavy sentence to deter other potential child abuse  Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 18, 2003]  Logan County State's Attorney Tim Huyett filed a two-count information Monday charging Robin L. Graham, 18, of San Jose with the first-degree murder of her 11-month-old son, Austin. The charges allege that she created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to Austin when she placed him in a bathtub of scalding water unsupervised, which ultimately caused his death by severely burning the infant. If convicted of the most serious charge, Graham could face a maximum sentence of 100 years in the Department of Corrections.

This is the third case of child murder in the past 2 years in Logan County, Huyett said. The first came when Daynesia Williams, 11 months at the time of her death, was killed at the hand of Edward Lascola. Lascola is serving 40 years after being convicted of the May 2001 killing by a Logan County jury in October of 2002. The second case is currently pending against Louis Russo. Russo is charged with the March 3 beating death of his 11-week-old child, Jule Russo. Russo's case is currently set for jury trial in January of 2004.

"These are sad times, and I have no idea why Logan County is a focal point for these heinous crimes. I can only assure you that myself and the law enforcement community will be tireless in pursuing justice for these most innocent of victims," Huyett said. "We asked for 100 years at the Lascola sentencing hearing, hoping to send a message to those who abuse children. I don't know if that message was heard. I will again seek heavy punishment in the hope that others who may be tempted to abuse a child will be deterred," he said.

Huyett asked people to be ever vigilant on behalf of children they may see in daily life. Huyett noted that in each case there were people who saw the signs of abuse but took no action, for whatever reason.

"People think these ultimate acts of violence just won't happen, but it all too often does," Huyett said. "We must be proactive in protecting our children."

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Logan County Sheriff Steve Nichols concurred. "As a former child protective investigator with DCFS [before he took over the sheriff's office in December of 2002], I have witnessed firsthand the effects of child abuse. If you think a child's being abused, they probably are. Call it in to the child abuse hot line at 1 (800) 25A-BUSE. "The calls can be anonymous, but at least an investigator will be in the door," said Nichols.

One of the keys signs is the age of the people involved, noted Nichols. "Kids having kids when they just aren't ready to be parents seems to be a common theme," he said.

Lascola was 20 years old at the time he murdered Daynesia. Russo was 19 at the time of Jule's death. Robin Graham is 18.

"This is our community," Huyett said. "Let's see if we can turn it around and make it more than a curiosity for its murder rate. Let's make it a great place to raise children and have this be the last of this kind of case for years to come."

The case is being investigated by the Logan County Sheriff's Department in a joint effort with the San Jose Police Department, which is headed by Aaron Hodgson.

[News release from Tim Huyett,
Logan County state's attorney]

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