Guilty verdict handed down in abuse trial

Friday, November 2, 2001

The trial of one of three former Marshall Habilitation Center employees has ended with a guilty verdict being handed down by the jury.

The trial of Vincent Lee Ballenger, 26, was heard in the Saline County Circuit Court under Judge John O'Malley of Jackson County. Following four days of testimony, the jury found Ballenger guilty of four counts of class B felony abuse of a child.

Ballenger was arrested in late August last year along with Lisa Ann Topel, 26, and Llewellyn L. Strohlin, 29. All three were employed by the habilitation center at the time; Topel as a licensed practical nurse and Ballenger and Strohlin as developmental assistants.

A criminal investigation into the matter was begun at the request of MHC administrators following an internal investigation into physical abuse of one of the center's clients.

The charges carry a range of punishment from five to 15 years each. The jury recommended five years for each count. A presentence investigation was ordered by the court with the sentencing scheduled to take place on Dec. 14.

Strohlin pleaded guilty to three counts of class B felony abuse of a child on May 4 and was sentenced to 12 years in the Department of Corrections for each count with the sentences to run concurrently.

Topel's case has yet to be resolved.

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