Friday, August 7, 2009

Steven Garber Sentenced for Beating, Burning, and Starving Child

The parents of a child who was beaten, burned and starved nearly to death last year were sentenced Thursday by a Blair County judge.

The father will go to a state correctional institution and the mother to Blair County Prison.

Steven Garber, 26, of Altoona RD 1 will serve 10 to 25 years behind bars and then serve 12 years' probation. Once Garber gets out of prison, he will not be allowed to have contact with children younger than 18, Judge Elizabeth Doyle ordered.

Garber entered guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated assault and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

At the sentencing, Blair County Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul said Garber was so "demented" that he carried pictures of the child's injuries on a flash drive which he had on his key ring. She said he showed no remorse.

Paul broke down in court and was unable to speak as she described the physical abuse and pain the child suffered between February and July 2008 when city police and officials of Blair County Children and Youth Services entered the child's home and took the 13-month-old toddler into custody.

Melissa Hunter, 20, of 60th Street entered pleas to endangering the welfare of a child, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. She will serve 11 to 23 months in county jail, followed by 12 years' probation.

Hunter described herself as a "dependent person" who did not act to stop the repeated beatings inflicted on the child by Garber.

The child's court-appointed guardian, attorney Mary Ann Probst, described the child as "gaunt" when he was first admitted to the hospital. He has regained his health, she said, describing the youngster, now in the custody of grandparents, as a "delightful child."

When it came to Hunter, the court placed an emphasis on teaching her how to be a good parent.

Hunter was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation. She also will participate in Women Aware, a program for women who are easily dominated by others, and take parenting classes through the county.

Hunter had another child after her arrest in July 2008. She told Doyle she didn't know she was pregnant at the time.

She is likely to regain custody of her children upon the completion of her jail term, according to Altoona Detective Sgt. Ben Jones and Paul.

Doyle told Hunter that while a majority of the "terrible acts" against the child were committed by Garber, she, too, bore responsibility.

"We can't excuse your role. ... You do bear responsibility for the condition of your son," Doyle said.

Jones investigated the abuse, which began when the baby was 7 months old. He said that if police and county officials had not intervened, the child would have died.

Garber was accused by police of regularly beating the child with a closed fist, burning the child's fingers with a cigarette lighter and slamming the child's head on a concrete floor.

When taken into custody, the toddler had bruises on his body, lumps on his head and healing bone fractures.

Garber and Hunter were both lodged in Blair County Prison late Thursday.

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