Thompson gets 13 years

Wellsville man sentenced for child endangering charges

Jason M. Thompson

LISBON –A Wellsville man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for deliberately withholding food from his girlfriend’s three young sons, who became so hungry they scavenged through the trash for something to eat.

The sentence was imposed Friday against Jason M. Thompson, 42, by Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam, who said the crimes were the result of “the utter depravity of the defendant and the mother of the children, Jamie Emery.”

Thompson was found guilty of six counts of child endangering — two for each of the boys, who were 7, 8 and 11 years old in the summer of 2015, which is when the crimes occurred. During this period, Thompson reportedly placed a lock on the refrigerator and only allowed the boys to have one or two meals per day, with lunch consisting of a sandwich bun and one slice of lunch meat and then noodles for supper.

A doctor testified at trial the eldest boy lost nearly 17 percent of his weight in the 214 days since his last checkup. The other two lost 15 percent and 6 percent of their weight respectively in the 152 days since their last checkups.

Authorities were alerted by Wellsville elementary school officials at the start of school in late August 2015 after they noticed one of the boys appeared to be severely underweight. They had him lift up his shirt to expose bones protruding from his rib cage and other parts of his upper body.

The boys told school officials Thompson and their mother often withheld food as a form of discipline. Teacher Darlene Henry testified at trial the 11-year-old looked as if he had been held captive in a World War II concentration camp. “The two younger boys were skeletal looking, their skin was clinging to their bones,” she said.

One of the boys testified how one of them became so skinny he was able to escape their locked bedroom by sneaking out through a vent and then looking for food in the kitchen, including scavenging through the trash, before returning to share what he found with his brothers.

Emery, 35, is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 18 after pleading guilty to three counts of child endangering, but assistant county prosecutor Tim McNicol described Thompson as “the dominant parental figure. He was the one calling the shots.”

Thompson reportedly moved in with Emery in early 2015, and McNicol said the boys “didn’t have the best of lives before … but when he entered the picture in January 2015 what was a bad situation became much worse.”

Defense attorney Pete Horvath asked that Thompson be spared prison because of health problems, describing what happened as an “error in judgment … It was a singular thing he did wrong.”

Horvath disagreed that Thompson was the dominant force in the household on Commerce Street. “We seem to forget there was another person in the home at the time — the mother,” he said.

Washam was not buying any of it and followed McNicol’s sentencing recommendation. “Professional people who saw these children on or about Sept. 1, 2015, were shocked, speechless and horrified by what they saw. This conduct is truly shocking to the conscience,” he said, adding the boys have likely suffered serious psychological harm.

Thompson  will receive mandatory credit for 14 months spent in the county jail awaiting the outcome of the case against him.