Started by Pernicious, Nov 18, 2004, 08:12 AM
Mother arrested after boys die of malnutritionKENT, Washington (AP) -- A woman with a history of child neglect complaints was arrested after her two young boys were found dead in their apartment of malnutrition and dehydration, police said.Police entered the apartment of Marie G. Robinson, 36, in the Seattle suburb of Kent after the children's paternal grandmother said she was unable to contact Robinson.Officers found the bodies of Justice W. Robinson, 16 months, in a crib, and Raiden A. Robinson, 7 weeks, in a bassinet.Another of Robinson's children, a 2-year-old boy, was hungry and skinny, said Officer Paul A. Petersen. He was checked by emergency technicians and placed in the care of the grandmother.Robinson was arrested for investigation of child mistreatment and second-degree murder."The stench in the apartment indicated they had been there several days," Petersen said. The officers jailed Robinson pending a court appearance.Medical examiners classified both deaths as homicides. Authorities have not said how long the children had been dead.State records show Robinson was investigated on complaints of child neglect in October 2003 and February this year. Two complaints in September 2002 were considered not serious enough for an investigation.The child welfare director for those counties, Chris Robinson, no relation, said the two earlier cases were referred to public health nurses who help struggling mothers."The question for us is, was it reasonable for us to do anything else? At this point, it will take a more thorough review by us to answer that question," Robinson said.
Father gets life in prison for starvation death of 4-year-old daughterSaturday, November 13, 2004By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-GazetteKITTANNING, Pa. -- It was an impassioned plea, filled with theatrics, drama and a booming voice that sounded like it could have been coming down from the heavens. Justin Guido, The Leader Times via APJames Tatar, center, is escorted back to Armstrong County Jail by Armstrong County Sheriff Larry Crawford, right, Friday after he was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the death of his 4-year-old daughter, Kristen Tatar.Click photo for larger image.It was asking eight men and four women to kill a man.It didn't work.The jury couldn't come to a unanimous decision to put James Tatar to death for starving his 4-year-old daughter to death, and so he will spend the rest of his life in prison.Sequestered for the last two weeks, the jury spent two hours deliberating during the penalty phase of Tatar's case. At 6:40 p.m. it returned to the Armstrong County courtroom and told Judge Kenneth Valasek they were split, and no matter how much more they talked, they'd never agree on a sentence.The judge thanked them and put them on a bus back to their homes in Somerset County.It took the jurors about eight hours on Thursday to determine that Tatar was guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 4-year-old Kristen.Her parents had locked her in the attic of their Parks Township home from July 1-6, 2003, without giving the girl food or water. They then disposed of her body in trash bags, a Coleman cooler and a garbage can.Her mother, Janet Crawford, pleaded guilty to a general count of homicide in September. Valasek, who heard her case, has already decided if she committed first or third-degree murder, or involuntary manslaughter. He will unseal his decision some time next week.If Crawford has been found guilty of first-degree murder like Tatar, she will be sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors dropped the death penalty against her in exchange for her plea and her testimony against Tatar.They presented no evidence yesterday during the penalty phase of Tatar's case, but stipulated the one aggravating factor that made his a death-penalty case was that Kristen was under the age of 12.The defense called seven witnesses -- including six of Tatar's family members. Each of them spoke about Tatar growing up: that he was a respectful boy who didn't cause much trouble; that he liked to play football and take his brothers fishing. None of them cried, and none of them begged the jury to spare Tatar's life.One witness, a clinical psychologist who evaluated Tatar, told the jury the defendant had no personality disorders or psychoses, but that he does suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.He also said Tatar has poor judgment capacity and a difficulty in grasping certain concepts and understanding the future consequences of his actions.Special Assistant Prosecutor Robert Campolongo didn't believe any of those diagnoses were pertinent to Tatar's crime."What I'm talking about is, we don't have a person here who is crazy or retarded?" he asked."That's correct, sir," the clinical psychologist, Ralph Tarter, answered. Darrell Sapp, Post-GazetteJaycee Reese, center, leaves the Armstrong County Courthouse for lunch yesterday before she was to speak in favor of sparing the life of the man who raised her, James Tatar. Tatar was convicted in the starvation death of his daughter, Kristen Tatar, and was sentenced to life in prison.Click photo for larger image. As aggressive as he was with the psychologist, it didn't compare to Campolongo's closing argument to the jurors.He stood before them for 24 minutes, shouting, shaking his fist and insisting that Tatar's actions were unforgivable."He sits before you in the nakedness of his guilt of a crime that is loathsome, despicable and abominable," Campolongo bellowed, his face turning red from the intensity.Then, for just a moment, his voice softened, as he told the jurors that children are a gift."They are our future. They are our hope. They are blessings. They are a miracle. They are innocent. They are defenseless," he said.And then he questioned how Tatar could not understand that and how he could show such a lack of caring for his daughter."We all need love. It is not just food we need," he said, staring at Kristen's picture in his hands. "A child must be protected. A child must be fed. A child must be loved."Just as quickly, he became angry again, talking about how Tatar once called Kristen, "Satan's daughter," and referred to her as a "little bitch.""If this is not the essence of evil, then tell me what is?" Campolongo asked. "Anything less than the death penalty in this case would cheapen the crime and the enormity of what was done to this child."Then, standing less than three feet from Tatar, Campolongo pointed in his face, telling the jury they must pronounce, "James Tatar, the sentence is death."As loud as Campolongo's speech was, defense attorney Robert Stewart's was that soft.He recounted how mobs set out in years past, killing without justification women believed to be witches, slaves believed to have disobeyed their owners, and the Jewish people Hitler believed were ruining his race.Acting as individuals, Stewart told the jury, those people would likely not have killed. That is what he asked them -- to act as individuals."Now it is the time for the jury to act as 12," Stewart said. "Each one of you must decide on your own."Looking at each juror, Stewart recounted a reason why Tatar's life was important: he has family that loves him; he doesn't understand the consequences of his actions; that Janet Crawford was the one who was most guilty. Then he repeated the phrase, barely audible across the room: "I ask you to spare his life."He believes his plea worked. Some of the jurors may have had residual doubt from the guilt phase, Stewart said, and they could not take the case a step further and sentence Tatar to die.He also thinks the fact that Crawford cut a deal and would receive nothing worse than life in prison influenced the jurors' decision."They weren't about to stand up and say, 'She got life and we're going to kill him?' " Stewart said.But jury Foreman Jim Spry said Crawford's punishment never came up in their deliberations. He would not say, specifically, what was discussed, and would not divulge the split among the jurors in the penalty phase.He did say there were tears, and that he was grateful for the support the jurors gave each other.Deciding between the death penalty and life in prison was far more difficult for him than deciding Tatar's guilt, Spry said."It was a gut-wrenching, rip-your-heart-out situation for everyone in there."
He believes his plea worked. Some of the jurors may have had residual doubt from the guilt phase, Stewart said, and they could not take the case a step further and sentence Tatar to die.He also thinks the fact that Crawford cut a deal and would receive nothing worse than life in prison influenced the jurors' decision."They weren't about to stand up and say, 'She got life and we're going to kill him?' " Stewart said.But jury Foreman Jim Spry said Crawford's punishment never came up in their deliberations. He would not say, specifically, what was discussed, and would not divulge the split among the jurors in the penalty phase.