LIBERTY TWP., Ohio -- "I will never ever forget you."
Those were some of the words written by a Liberty Township mother in a letter to her adopted 9-year-old son before giving him back to Butler County Children's Services.
Lisa Cox, 52, and her husband Cleveland, 49, pleaded not guilty in a Butler County courtroom in November. They are facing charges for returning the boy.
The couple was indicted on one count of nonsupport of dependents after authorities said the two “recklessly” abandoned the child on Oct. 24. They had the boy since he was 3 months old.
The couple is accused of dropping the 9-year-old off at Butler County Children Services with a bag of clothes and the letter from his mother, the Journal-News reported.
In the letter, Lisa wrote that it "breaks my heart that you can no longer be a part of our family."
"From the very first day, I have always loved you," she wrote. "I am praying that God will continue to take good care of you and that he will find the perfect family to love you."
The couple claims the boy has aggressive behaviors and will not agree to get help, according to Adolfo Olivas, the child’s guardian ad litem.
The boy’s guardian said the child is “hurt and confused and traumatized.”
"I want so much for you to be healthy and happy," Lisa wrote in the letter. "You couldn't be happy in our family but I know you will find happiness some day."
The couple was indicted Nov. 13 by a grand jury for “recklessly abandoning or failing to provide adequate support to” their child.
Sources told WCPO reporter Tom McKee that law enforcement officials went to the couple’s house on Windsor Trail to serve the arrest warrant. They learned the parents had taken their other two children out of school and left the area, according to WHIO in Dayton.
They eventually turned themselves in to authorities on Nov. 15 and could serve up to six months in jail and pay a $1,000 fine if convicted.
Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said he’s angered by the allegations against these parents.
"It shook my sensibilities and I believe it shook the conscience of most people that have heard about this story," he said.
The case first came to light in Butler County Juvenile Court when the couple petitioned to give their son back.
"I said, 'return a child? What are you talking about? Return a child?' Is there a return to sender stamp on these children?” Gmoser recalled asking Cleveland Cox. “(Cleveland Cox) remarked, ‘no,’ but in the past that's the way it has been done. I said not anymore. We're not doing that."
That's why Gmoser took the case to a grand jury, which returned the misdemeanor charge.
“My position is children in general, not speaking to this specific case, they do not have a return to sender label on their forehead,” Gmoser was quoted as saying in the Journal-News report. “They are their children for always and they have that duty to support and they cannot abandon without consequences.”
The Journal-News reported that a scheduled hearing in Butler County Juvenile Court to terminate the Coxes’ parental responsibilities has been delayed at the request of the couple’s attorney until after the criminal proceedings have been concluded.
A bill of particulars filed by the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office states that the Coxes are trying to reunify with the child, who they’ve raised since he was three months old.
Neighbors of the Cox family didn't want to go on camera, but told McKee they're stunned by the indictment. They described them as good parents, good people who were just trying to work through some family issues right now.
One of the neighbors labeled the adopted son a "bad seed."
Olivas said the boy’s parents cite aggressive behavior as their reasoning for returning him to children’s services. Olivas said the parents were frustrated that the boy would not agree to get help for his behavioral issues.
“The parents were willing to get help but the child wasn’t. That just is nonsense to me,” said Olivas.
“A parent is a parent and a 9-year-old is a 9-year-old. If your 9-year-old needs help, you get him help. It is not a question of a 9-year-old wanting it or not,” he said.
"I don't look at 9-year-old children in general as being bad seeds," he said.
Instead, the prosecutor adopted a line from the movie “Forrest Gump” to describe the situation.
"Children are like that box of chocolates. When they are born into your life, whether by adoption or by natural means, you really never know what you're going to get. But, you have the responsibility -- especially if you have the means to care for them certainly up until adulthood," he said.
The family was not available to comment on the situation.
Gmoser also pointed to the recent court appearance of a 16-year-old from Liberty Township who is accused of trying to kill his parents by setting a fire to their house.
He said the teen’s mother and father both expressed their unconditional love for the child.
"Being a parent requires unconditional love," Gmoser said.
The couple is scheduled to begin trial on Feb. 10.
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