By Elaine Rackley
A McDonough man, who was found guilty of abusing his two children, has begun serving a 15-year sentence.
Earl Thomas Dinkler was found guilty of two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree on Aug. 21, 2008. He was free on bond.
Dinkler turned himself into the Henry County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, Feb. 18, according to jail records. He was scheduled to be transported (on an undisclosed date) to a state prison to begin serving two years in prison, with the remainder served on probation, according to court officials.
His wife, Deborah Dinkler, pleaded guilty to the same charges three days prior to her husband's guilty verdict, according to a series of Henry Daily Herald articles published during the trial (Aug. 20-22, 2008). She was sentenced to 15 years, with two years to serve in the state's penal system.
Authorities reported that the couple abused their two children, a boy and girl, over a four-year period, by forcing them to do strenuous exercises, and beating them with a belt, or wooden bat, when they refused. Authorities investigating the case said the Dinklers inflicted "excessive" pain on their children.
A neighbor of the Dinklers, Donna Chapman, testified that the couple's daughter hid from the Dinklers under Chapman's house. Chapman said the girl told her about the harsh discipline, at which point, the neighbor notified authorities.
Scott Key, attorney for Deborah Dinkler, said his client "didn't exactly admit to the crime when she entered her plea. He said it was in her best interest to do so. "We [acknowledged] that had we gone to trial, there would have been evidence that she did harm the children," said Key. "We didn't want to put the children through testifying, so we made the decision to enter the plea," he said, according to earlier published reports.
Henry County District Attorney Tommy Floyd said, as a condition of the sentence, Deborah Dinkler would be precluded from being able to adopt any more children when she is released. In addition, Floyd said another restriction is that she is not to have any contact with the children until, and unless, they reach the age of 18. If they wanted to initiate contact at that time, they could.
Character witnesses testified on behalf of the Dinklers during the trial, one of which was the children's piano teacher, Anita Lindsay. She said she was a friend of the Dinklers. According to Lindsay, the kids never gave any indication they were being abused.
"Every time those kids left my house, when Earl came to pick them up, they went running to him with big hugs, and smiles on their faces."
McDonough Police Detective Chris Morris was the lead investigator in the Dinkler case. He described the children as "wonderful," and said the people who spoke on behalf of Earl Dinkler "don't know the whole story."
The detective went on to say, "All the things I saw in this case sickened me. I don't think Mr. Dinkler is a menace to society, but he was a menace to his children."