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Cole County man pleads guilty to child endangerment charge

by News Tribune staff [email protected] | May 14, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

A Cole County man pleaded guilty to an amended charge in connection with a child endangerment case filed in December 2019.

During a hearing before Cole County Judge Dan Green, Joseph Ciavarella, 54, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor second-degree child endangerment. Prosecutors amended the charge down from first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

For his plea, Ciavarella was placed on two years of unsupervised probation, ordered to serve 20 days of shock time in the Cole County Jail and have no contact with the victim in this case.

Also charged in this case is Loretta Wilhelm, 36, of Cole County, who is charged with abuse or neglect of a child. Her case is scheduled to be before Cole County Presiding Judge Jon Beetem later this month.

The residence where this allegedly occurred is in the 3300 block of Rock Ridge Road.

Ciavarella and Wilhelm, who was his fiancee, were living together with five children, according to Cole County Sheriff's Department probable cause statements.

Authorities claimed Ciavarella and Wilhelm kept one of the children locked in a closet, deprived of food and water. Wilhelm is also accused of choking the child. This is believed to have occurred between Jan. 1, 2018, and Nov. 1, 2019.

An investigation by the Department of Family Services eventually led to the removal of the child and four other children from the home, court documents show.

A sibling of the victim was interviewed during the DFS investigation and reportedly told how the child was locked in the closet.

Another witness claimed to have seen the child being hit and locked in the closet for two days without food and water. The child received only noodles and ravioli when allowed to eat, the witness reported.

Ciavarella and Wilhelm would let the child out in the mornings only to eat ravioli and then lock the child back in the closet, the child told authorities during an interview.

The child also claimed to have been forced to go to the restroom in the closet because the child would sneak out of the home to get food, and Wilhelm had forced the child to chew sleep aid pills without anything to drink.

Print Headline: Cole County man pleads guilty to child endangerment charge

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