By Hilary White

AKRON, Ohio, August 2, 2007 ( – 19 year-old Darrell Shaffer is suing his mother Mary Rowles, her lesbian partner Alice Jenkins, the Summit County Children’s Services Board, the agency’s former director, and agency social workers for the horrifying abuse and neglect he and his brothers suffered for years.

Jenkins and Rowles pleaded guilty and were convicted in 2003 of 55 counts of abuse and neglect that included savage beatings, starvation, being locked in a closet and forced to eat animal feces. When they were apprehended by police, the boys were found to be severely malnourished; one boy was 8 years old and weighed only 28 pounds.

In January 2004, the women were each sentenced to 30 years imprisonment and are being held at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville. Shaffer is the eldest of five boys who, at the time of the two women’s arrest, were aged six, eight, ten, thirteen and fourteen. Their sister, 12 years old at the time, was not harmed, police said.

Shaffer is asking for $25,000 from each of the defendants. The suit says that local child services made at least three visits to the home between July 1998 and April 2003: “During each of these home visits, there was open, obvious and overwhelming evidence of ongoing abuse of, and neglect to [Shaffer] and his siblings. Nonetheless, defendantsâEUR¦took no further action to protect [Shaffer] and his siblings.”

Mary Rowles, the children’s mother, had been in a lesbian relationship with Alice Jenkins, described as the “man” in the relationship, for seven years at the time of the arrest. The children were told to call Jenkins “dad”, and police said that although they were clearly afraid of their mother, they were “terrified” of Jenkins.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said the boys told police that Jenkins beat them with a hammer, kicked one in the groin with steel-toed boots and forced them to eat dog and cat feces as punishment for sneaking out of their urine-soaked closet and stealing food.

Reports say that Rowles had “adversarial” relationships with the true fathers of her children, but at least one of the men applied for custody of two of the children and complained to Children’s Services about the abuse. In May 2003 Brady Postlethwaite and his wife said they had repeatedly tried to get help for the children, but said “we were just called liars.”

Testimony at a custody hearing in March 2001 revealed that Summit County Children’s Services and Akron police were aware of the allegations but did nothing. Postlethwaite said he and his wife “were told if we made any more complaints we’d be arrested.”

Before their convictions, Rowles and Jenkins told press they were proud to be gay.