CLEVELAND (AP) — The parents of an 8-year-old boy who died from Hodgkin lymphoma after suffering for months from undiagnosed swollen glands have pleaded guilty to denying him medical treatment.
Monica Hussing, 37, and William Robinson Sr., 40, both of Cleveland, face up to eight years in prison at sentencing. They pleaded guilty Monday to attempted involuntary manslaughter in a last-minute plea deal before their trial was about to begin.
Willie Robinson collapsed at his home on March 22, 2008. Prosecutors say he had begged his parents to take him to see a doctor but was rejected.
Hodgkin lymphoma is a highly treatable cancer.
Hussing's attorney, John Luskin, said his client took responsibility in the case but, given her education and background, didn't realize the boy was seriously ill and was treating him with cold medication.
"She is a mother that just did not have the capability to recognize" cancer, Luskin said Wednesday.
"The kid had what appeared to be swollen glands," he said. "This was not a tumor that was getting bigger. It would come and go. He would have his good days, he would have his bad days."
According to Luskin, the parents had financial problems and once tried to get checkups for their children but couldn't afford it.
Prosecutors say that while the boy was suffering, the parents claimed financial hardship but paid $87 to have a pit bull treated for fleas. Luskin said the dog belonged to Hussing's parents and her parents paid for the treatment.
Luskin said he would not make his client available for an interview before sentencing next month. A phone number listed under her name wasn't in service.
There was no phone listing for Robinson at his address in court records. A message seeking comment left Wednesday for his attorney wasn't immediately returned.
The emotional aftermath from their son's death led the couple to split, according to Luskin.
As part of the plea bargain, the prosecution agreed to drop four counts each against each parent, including child endangering. Prosecutors didn't agree to a sentence recommendation; Luskin said he hopes the judge will consider probation.
The couple's four other children under 18 were placed in the custody of a family member. Luskin said a daughter, upon turning 18, decided to return to live with her mother.
Trumbull County Children Services worked with the family to get Willie health care when they lived in Warren. The agency got involved after receiving a phone call in July 2007.
Agency officials said a case worker visited the family at least monthly and pushed the parents to have a medical follow-up on his swollen neck but they didn't. The family soon moved to Cleveland and the boy died within weeks.
The coroner ruled that the boy was a victim of medical neglect and died from pneumonia due to Hodgkin lymphoma.
Hodgkin lymphoma is a highly treatable cancer, with as many as 95 percent of patients in early stages of the disease surviving for five years or more with treatment. It's one of the most common forms of cancers among children.