Defense expert says neither Schmitz fits abuser profile

BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - There is a hearing Thursday in the Brownsville trial of Tom and Debra Schmitz, accused of abusing some of the 18 children in their care.

Wednesday, Judge Clayburn Peeples dismissed one count of child abuse against Tom Schmitz and six counts of child abuse against Debra Schmitz and set the hearing to consider dropping three more charges.

This comes as the Schmitzes lawyers present their defense against charges filed in 2004.

The Gibson County couple were initially charged with more than 50 counts, most of them child abuse and neglect. Prosecutors accuse the couple of beating children with a wooden paddle, locking them in a metal cage and forcing them to dig what they the children were told were their graves.

Defense witness Doctor Ronald Federici testified yesterday, the third day of the trial.

He said neither Tom nor Debra Schmitz fit the profile of a likely child abuser.

He also noted the children the couple took in, several with mental or physical disabilities, already suffer from severe abuse and neglect issues, resulting in a variety of disorders.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)