Couple sentenced in baby abuse case

LEWISTOWN – Both people charged in connection with the abuse of an 11-month old boy were sentenced on Thursday in the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas.

Robert Grove, 30, was sentenced in the morning, while co-defendant Brittney Marshall, 22, was sentenced in the afternoon. Neither of them admitted to the abuse, or blamed the other as the person who abused the boy.

Despite his desperate plea to the court, Grove was sentenced to serve his 15 to 30 month sentence at a state correctional facility. Grove previously pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child. The remaining charges, including aggravated assault were withdrawn under a plea agreement.

Marshall previously pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and she was sentenced to serve 6 to 18 months in the Mifflin County Correctional Facility.

According to court documents, police responded to the emergency room at Lewistown Hospital on July 4, 2012, for an alleged child abuse case. The 11-month-old was subsequently transferred to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, police said.

According to court documents, police were advised by a doctor at Geisinger that the infant sustained his injuries as the result of abuse. Police were told the infant had skull fractures, and three old healing fractures around his collar bone, shoulder blade and shin, as well as a bite mark caused by an adult. The doctor also told police it appeared the infant had been struck with a rectangular object on some parts of his body.

All told, the doctor documented 41 bruises on the infant, police said.

Grove’s defense attorney Matt McClenahen said his client didn’t inflict any of the abuse on the child, and yet the co-defendant in this case is going to receive a time served sentence, rather than further incarceration.

McClenahen said Marshall had the opportunity to harm the child, while his client didn’t.

McClenahen said Marshall is a violent person and prone to outbursts.

“Strangely enough she attacked (Grove) and bit him last night … she has a borderline personality disorder,” he said.

“Fortunately she doesn’t have her children anymore … I hope she never gets them back,” he added.

McClenahen said Mifflin County Children and Youth Services has been trying to help her but she has been undermining their efforts.

McClenahen also tried in vain to have his client’s sentence reduced, so Grove could remain in Mifflin County under the supervision of parole and probation department.

“Giving (Grove) prison time, would be like giving (Jerry) Sandusky probation, and (Tim) Curley and (Gary) Schultz prison time,” he added.

McClenahen said Marshall was the one who hurt the child, “it’s in her nature.”

Mifflin County District Attorney Dave Molek said the victim in this case sustained life threatening injuries.

Grove also spoke prior to being sentenced and reiterated that he never harmed the child and that he has two 10-year old boys of his own.

“I didn’t do anything wrong, I didn’t hurt the child … I worked out of state, what was I supposed to do?” Grove said.

During Marshall’s sentencing hearing she said “one hundred percent I did not do it.”

Linda Walck, the paternal grandmother of the boy said Marshall was a “loaded gun” unleashing her rage on the boy and that the child was afraid of Marshall.

“I think she isolated him from us because she didn’t want anyone to know what was going on,” she said.

Molek said during both sentencing hearings that the plea agreements were reached after looking at the evidence and realizing that determining who committed the abuse, especially the older injuries that had healed, would be difficult if not impossible.

“What I believe and what I could prove are two different things, ” he added.

While sentencing Marshall, President Judge Timothy S. Searer said she was “derelict” in her responsibilities as a mother.

“I still say as mother of these children you are the first line of defense,” he added.