GUILTY of child abuse - Robyn Drown & Graydon Drown found GUILTY on most charges.
Jury deliberations lasted for only four hours, and lead to a verdict of guilty.
Jury deliberations lasted for only four hours, and lead to a verdict of guilty of most charges in the trials of Robyn Kay Drown (42) and Graydon Drown (49) of Turner, Oregon. Both Drowns, appearing as co-defendants but charged separately, appeared before Judge Thomas Hart and a jury of twelve in Marion County Circuit Court. The Drowns were each charged with 25 counts of second-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment. The allegations included beating the children with objects that ranged from a metal pipe, a fiberglass tent pole with a knotted cord attached, a switch, plastic piping, 2-by-4 boards and other household objects.
Robyn Drown (nee Lewis) and Graydon Drown both grew up in Alaska. As children she and Graydon attended church congregations of the Worldwide Church of God about 100 miles apart, but their families knew each other. Graydon Drown then moved closer to Anchorage and began attending the same church as she did. Robyn Lewis and Graydon Drown were married, with Robyn's parents consent, when Robyn was 15. Their first child was born a few months later. Following their marriage Robyn and Graydon Drown lived in California, Alaska, Oregon, and Hawaii. Leading a sparse and insulated lifestyle, at one point the entire family set up camp near Mill City in a sport utility vehicle and a tent. The children who testified this week said they never attended school or saw a doctor or dentist.
Robyn and Graydon Drown are the parents of twelve children. Three older children, now adults, were removed from their home in California in the 1990s and raised by his parents. The couple's nine youngest children - ranging in age from 6 months to 16 years old - were taken by Oregon child welfare authorities after the Drowns were arrested in June. The abuse of their nine younger children was revealed this spring after two of the couple's teen sons confided in leaders they came to trust at Chabad of Salem, and Temple Beth Sholom in South Salem, where the family regularly attended services and programs. After investigation both parents were arrested and indicted. While in custody Robyn Drown filed for divorce. The application will also be heard by Judge Hart and is still pending.
Citing quotes from the Bible, Robyn Drown's attorney R. Brooke Holstedt framed her defence on a basis of "battered wife" syndrome. Patricia Warford, a psychologist from Newberg, Oregon and called by Holstedt, testified as an expert witness on Thursday. She explained the psychology of trauma to the jury and described Robyn Drown as a battered woman. As part of Robyn Drown's defence Holstedt said she was a battered woman who was psychologically terrorized by her husband and could not act outside of his control, but Robyn Drown acknowledged that she never expressed any discontent in her marriage or made claims of abuse. She had never filed a police report.
According to Robyn Drown's testimony she had been shoved and slapped a few times during their marriage and was called names such as "T-Rex", "puke", and "Fred". Robyn Drown testified she had stuck her children without direction from their father and she never came to the defence of a child who was being beaten or punished.
When asked by Marion County prosecutor Sarah Morris whether she confided in anyone about her husband's abuse against her Robyn Drown said "I didn't want to go around complaining."
Morris also asked "Did you ever step in front of Mr. Drown and take the blows yourself?"
"No, I never did," Robyn Drown replied.
As a witness for her sister's defence, Robyn Drown's younger sister Heather Larson said she and her sister were raised in Anchorage, Alaska under the faith of the Worldwide Church of God. ( link to en.wikipedia.org) Members of the Worldwide Church of God consent to giving the ministers nearly complete control over a family's life, including relationships, child-rearing and financial decisions. Larson said the church sanctioned punishing children using belts, but that she never struck her own children. ("The Plain Truth About Child Rearing" by Herbert W. Armstrong) Robyn Drown's supporters outside the courtroom, however, deny that family and extended family have had any affiliation in over twenty years with the Worldwide Church of God or its offshoots. Robyn Drown's family supported her marriage to Graydon throughout.
Chapin Milbank and Stephen A. Lipton, attorneys for Graydon Drown, presented a defence of "reasonable corporal punishment". Lipton argued that Robyn Drown was not a victim of her marriage and did disclose to a number of relatives, friends and community members any discontent with her marriage.
On Wednesday a disturbing tape, which was recorded in secrecy by one of the oldest sons at the suggestion of the rabbi, was played for the jury. The shocking evidence revealed a voice identified as Graydon Drown asking "Where's the stick?" and child's voice which suddenly became silent. For over two minutes pistol-like cracks of what sounded like a whip followed, increasing in speed and intensity at one point. The child, identified as a six year old, cried and shrieked in pain. A voice, identified as Robyn Drown, talked calmly in the background. She did not comment or come to the defence of the abused child. A second child, who was present during the beating, could be also heard. The tape was played again during closing arguments.
Two weapons were seized during the investigation - the switchlike fiberglass tent pole with a knotted cord used to beat the daughter and heard on the tape, and a four-foot pipe made of galvanized metal. These weapons were allegedly used in beating one of the teenage sons. As part of the prosecution's case seven of the nine younger children testified in the trial. The oldest of the three children who were removed in the 1990s also testified.
Stephen L. Lipton, one of Graydon Drown's attorneys, said his client was a father who was a strict disciplinarian, but that he did not act beyond his means as a parent upholding reasonable corporal punishment.
A neighbor notified investigators after the parents were arrested of a small parcel left on the property. In it was a blue tarp, flashlight, batteries, some food and toilet paper. The parcel was later identified by one of the teen boys as his "runaway kit."
Robyn Drown's mother, Sandra Lewis wept in court while Hart read the verdicts aloud. Robyn Drown covered her face with one hand. Graydon Drown showed no expression. After the verdict was read, Lipton said he thought that the four hours the jury deliberated was rather quick for such a complex case and he was disappointed in the outcome. Lipton said it was too early to know whether his client would appeal.
How long the two will serve is yet to be determined, but some charges that carry a minimum sentence of 70 months in prison. Both Robyn and Graydon Drown will be held at Marion County Correctional Facility until their sentencing at 4 p.m. on January 7, 2009.
The placement of all nine children will be determined after their parents are sentenced. "They lived in this life because it was the life Robyn and Graydon Drown subjected them to," prosecutor Sarah Morris said during her closing argument.
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