Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Illness cited for woman in abuse case

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A Waynesville mother of two, suspected of molesting at least six adolescent boys in her neighborhood, has a history of mental illness and developmental disabilities, her lawyer told the Enquirer Tuesday.

        “She has obvious mental and social handicaps,” Jason Showen said, indicating that he is likely to use that information to defend 24-year-old Hannah Furnace.

        “We have a not guilty plea down now, but we hope we can resolve this.”

        Ms. Furnace, of High Street, cried Tuesday and paced in the lobby of Warren County Court, where she appeared briefly and waived an opportunity to hear witnesses testify about the evidence against her involving a 13-year-old boy.

        As a result, initial charges of gross sexual imposition, corruption of a minor and importuning involving the teen were referred to a grand jury.

        More charges are expected to be lodged against Ms. Furnace on Friday, when the grand jury considers all evidence, including allegations involving other victims.

        The initial charges stem from Ms. Furnace's arrest April 7 when police, responding to a complaint of suspicious activity, found her in the Quaker Cemetery with three 13-year-old boys. Allegations involving other boys surfaced during the ensuing investigation by Waynesville police and a sheriff's detective who specializes in child abuse cases.

        A man who lives with one of the alleged victims — a 12-year-old boy — and the boy's mother, said he complained to police as early as July about a teen he saw in the bushes with Ms. Furnace. The Enquirer is not naming the man to protect the 12-year-old's identity.

        Waynesville Chief Allen Carter said the complaint was too vague to start an investigation. He did not make a written report.

        “Hindsight being 20-20, I wish we could have done something with this. But it's sort of hard to accuse people of something without anything to back it up,” Chief Carter said.

        Ms. Furnace remains free on her promise to return for future hearings. However, a judge has ordered her not to have contact with juveniles.

        She has moved out of Waynesville, but is permitted to have supervised visits with her toddler son and infant daughter, who remain at home with their father, Mr. Showen said.


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