Parents Who Slept While Little Boys Drowned Shouldn’t Be Going to Prison

tentIt's tragedy lumped on tragedy. Ohio parents Kasey and Richard Klein have been sentenced to 12 years in prison for the drowning deaths of their two youngest children, 3-year-old Ayden Leroy Cecil and 2-year-old Anthony Joseph Tullius, while the family was camping. But the court's decision should leave parents across the country wondering if they dare go to sleep at night.

That's what the Kleins did. They fell asleep in a tent with their two little boys last July. Today they're convicted felons, each declared guilty of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of child endangering. Because grieving the loss of their two little boys somehow wasn't enough of a punishment?


There's no question that it's a parent's job to protect their children at all costs. But there's no rulebook that explains when you've done "enough," when "due diligence" is all you can expect out of a human being. But the Kleins' sentencing is putting parents on notice that "enough" may never really be enough.

A cursory look at the Kleins' camping trip doesn't sound any different from any other average family's vacation. According to police and news reports, Kasey and Richard were snuggled up in a tent. Inside the tent were their toddlers, also asleep. When the younger boy, Anthony, woke up and cried, Richard pulled him to his chest to cuddle and then fell back to sleep. Two hours later, the adults woke to find their boys were gone. Emergency workers found Ayden's body a mile away in the water, while Anthony's has never been found.

It's horrible. It's sad. But this sounds an awful lot like what parents do every day. Exhausted, we pull a cranky kid to our chest and fall back to sleep.

Humans have to sleep. When a particularly sanctimonious mother tells me she has "never" taken her eyes off of her kids, it's my cue to tune her out. Because no person in the history of the world has ever been able to give up all sleep for 18 years in order to sit with their eyes on their kids.

And let's talk about that river, shall we? Personally, I wouldn't take a toddler camping. But I wouldn't go camping. Period. I prefer my pillow-top mattress to the cold, hard ground. 

But I grew up in a house that was just as close to a river as that tent. And no one ever cited my parents for daring to go to sleep at night. They told their two kids not to go anywhere near the water, locked the doors at night (although we proved more than once that we could open them). In other words, they did their very best to protect their kids and then they had to let go and live.

That's what the Kleins did, and tragically life didn't treat them kindly. But prison hardly seems necessary for two grieving parents who just acted liked parents.

Put yourself in the Kleins' shoes. Have you ever camped with your kids? Do you live near water? Does their sentencing terrify you?


Image via andyarthur/Flickr

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