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Father sentenced for beating 9-year-old son

CLERMONT COUNTY, Ohio (Rich Jaffe) -- John Kelley will spend the next 3 years of his life in prison for the beatings he inflicted on his then 9-year-old adopted son.

The child came from an extremely troubled past.  When he began acting out in his new home Kelley, on advice from his fellow church members, took to corporal punishment in an effort to control the boy's actions.

The courtroom Monday morning was both emotionally and physically divided.  Friends, family and supporters of John Kelley on one side, professionals from Children's Protective Services as well as the boy's court appointed guardian on the other.

Extremely religious, when he was arrested, John Kelley told investigators, "You have to spank a child until you see the resistance is broken."

The prosecutor says that amounted to the worst child abuse bruising case he's ever seen.  John Kelley didn't have any criminal history but he heads to prison as a felony child abuser.

He and his wife, Angie, first fostered and then adopted the boy called Michael.  Last April when the 9-year-old child, who'd been in eight foster homes and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, began acting out he was taken to a local Kroger store and made to wear a sign.  The sign said, "I pee on my family if I don't get my way."

Kelley's attorney, George Montgomery, says his client couldn't handle the boy's problems.

"My client says quite clearly on that form given to CPS, 'I cannot handle a child with certain psychological issues.'  And what does Children's Services do?  They take a child with these issues, with these known issues, and they place that child with John."

Weeks later the boy ran and Kelley's world came crashing down. 

Caseworker Paige Chandler told the court, "He ran away from his home in a survival mode hiding behind bushes, in ditches, running into a home where he had no clue who was in there, what was in there because he wanted help.  What he wanted help for was help me make my dad stop hitting me, just make him stop."

Welts were left on Michael's legs by a belt.  Pictures of his bruised buttocks are so disturbing we can't show them to you.  Caseworkers say the boy was beaten so hard and repeatedly he couldn't sit down for weeks.

During the trial Kelley and his wife signed away their parental rights to him.  Monday Kelley told the court, "I just simply want you to know that I love my son.  The hardest thing I've ever had to do was sign away my boy."

Prosecutor Scott O'Reilly told us, "As the judge said corporal punishment is OK but this is abuse and there's really no way to justify it.  And the fact that it went on and on it touches you, it makes you hurt for him."

The day Michael was rescued, both veteran case workers and deputies were moved to tears as they tried to comfort and help him.  One of John Kelley's nephews told the court that even considering everything that has happened in court, he still thinks John Kelley is, "The best, most qualified father on the planet."

Michael was placed back in his preceding foster home when he was removed from the Kelley's.  His court appointed guardian says while he still has problems, he hasn't exhibited any of the behaviors that resulted in the beatings.

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