The case that I decided to focus on is an older abuse case, but it has recently been resolved in the courts. It is a child abuse case involving James and Bonnie Zeleski. They were both charged with abusing their infant daughter. The child was brought to the hospital with a fracture in each leg, a fracture in each arm, a thigh fracture, three broken ribs, a ripped esophagus, pneumonia, malnourished and several other cuts and bruises. The girl was transferred to an Omaha hospital. The father, James, was charged on June 3, 1998 with Class 4 Felony Child Abuse.
His wife, Bonnie, was later charged and onvicted of a Class 3 Felony. James was sentenced to three years probation and six months in jail. His wife was sentenced to 15 to 18 months in prison. I think that this case was fairly portrayed by the media. I know at the time, there were several letters to the editor and opinion printed on the subject, but the Grand Island Independent seemed to be fair and stick to the facts. It was a horrible crime and I think they did a good job being unbiased. I think that it is a good idea to publicize crimes like this.
From my other studies, I have learned that the informal sanctions, public umiliation and shame, are far more effective than the formal sanctions in preventing crime. When people who are having a hard time dealing with being a parent see something like this in the media, they may stop to think about their actions. A good idea would be to run several articles on where parents can go to for help. The combination of the two, may help prevent this from happening to another child. As a mother I have a definite interest in this crime. I cannot even begin to understand how anyone could do something like that to someone so helpless.
I am also nterested in this case from the legal perspective and how the case was resolved in the court system. I personally think that the sentencing was very lenient. I think this is a good activity. I studied journalism for a while and I am very aware of how the media can distort a situation. I think as a human service worker it is very important to know what is going on and how the situations are being resolved. Anytime situations like this can be brought to public attention I think it can help. Just getting one person to think about their actions possibly save the life of a child.