Sister says Ohio girl punished by cold showers

HAMILTON, Ohio - The older sister of a 12-year-old Ohio girl whose parents are on trial for allegedly locking the younger girl in a basement for weeks testified Tuesday that the girl was forced to take cold showers and made to eat peanut butter mixed with garlic and black pepper as punishment.

The older sister and a social worker testified on the first day of the Butler County Juvenile Court trial of Shawn and Joanna Blackston, the 12-year-old's father and stepmother. The trial is to continue Wednesday.

Shawn Blackston, 40, and Joanna Blackston, 37, of Middletown have pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of child endangering for allegedly locking the girl in the basement as punishment. The couple could get up to six months in jail if the judge finds them guilty, a court official said.

The older sister, identified by The Cincinnati Enquirer as Shawna Blackston, 18, testified that the 12-year-old was kept in the family's basement to protect younger children in the home after the 12-year-old threatened to hurt them. The younger girl was not identified.

The older sister also told the court that the younger girl was forced to sit on a porch in a thunderstorm for about 30 minutes and was "soaked," The Hamilton JournalNews reported.

A Butler County Children Services caseworker testified that the girl was underweight when authorities found her in the basement this summer after an anonymous tip alleged child abuse. The 5-foot-10 girl weighed 74 pounds just three days after she was moved from the home in July and had dark circles under her eyes and stained clothes, caseworker Alisa Muncy said.

The older sister testified that her sister was never denied food but was given peanut butter sandwiches or leftovers for dinner while the rest of the family ate carryout food, the Enquirer reported.

The 12-year-old girl is in foster care, as are five other children who lived in the home, according to a court official. The children's ages ranged from 2 to 15.

The parents' attorneys declined to make opening statements and did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

Prosecutor Kim Schneider asked the judge to hold the Blackstons responsible for the girl's condition when she was found.

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