Posted on Wed, Jan. 14, 2009
No jail for mother in wild party
By Larry King
Inquirer Staff Writer
A suburban mother who hosted a teen party that descended into a depraved sleepover was placed on two years' probation yesterday in Bucks County Court.
Weeping and apologizing, Lynne Long-Higham said her ability to control the April gathering had been hampered by a reaction to a psychiatric drug she had just begun taking.
"Not a day goes by that I don't despair" about what went on in her apartment in Lower Makefield, Long-Higham, 46, told Judge John J. Rufe. "It sickens me to think that children were hurt while in my care."
Police had alleged thay two ninth-grade boys were sexually assaulted by Angela Honeycutt, a drunken friend and neighbor of Long-Higham's, during the sleepover. A third boy claimed to have kissed Honeycutt but declined her advances.
Honeycutt was acquitted by a jury of charges that she had sexual contact with the boys. Honeycutt admitted that she exposed herself to several boys, talked about sex with them, danced provocatively in front of them, kissed two, and showered naked with two. The jury convicted Honeycutt only of two counts of corrupting minors. Her sentencing is set for tomorrow.
Long-Higham pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors, and testified against Honeycutt in court. Prosecutors said Long-Higham failed to intervene when Honeycutt made advances on the teens.
Given a second chance, the divorced mother of two said, "I would have stopped it immediately and sent [Honeycutt] home."
The April 11 party began as a tame gathering for about 20 boys and girls who were friends of Long-Higham's elder son, now 16. Things got out of hand after the girls and most of the boys had gone home.
Long-Higham has a degree in community health and worked more than 20 years as a health-care grant writer. She said she has been under treatment for bipolar disorder for several years.
Her medication had been altered just before the party to help lessen her depression, she said. The new drug sent her into a manic episode, she said, inhibiting her judgment and ability to act.
Long-Higham said she was "very detached from what was going on; that's the best way I can explain it."
She also acknowledged having shared a bottle of wine with Honeycutt at the party.
Since her arrest, she said, she has lost her job, is able to see her two sons only on weekends, and lost her apartment lease.
"She has basically lost her place in the community and with her children," defense attorney Marc Rickles said.
Rufe told Long-Higham that he was "satisfied that you have paid a substantial price" for the mistakes.
"You are the person who could have stood in the way, and did nothing," the judge told her. "That should be a message for anyone in the community who thinks that these were idle activities."
Contact staff writer Larry King at 215-345-0446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.