MIFFLINTOWN - A 28-year-old Richfield man pleaded no contest to several charges stemming from the physical abuse of his infant son.
A jury trial was scheduled to start Tuesday morning for Joshua Sheaffer; however, on the eve of the trial, defense attorney Shawn Dorward and Juniata County District Attorney Cory Snook worked out a plea agreement.
Sheaffer pleaded no contest to simple assault, endangering the welfare of a child and terroristic threats. If Sheaffer had taken the case to trial, he would have faced an additional charge of aggravated assault. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is instead an acknowledgement that the evidence presented at trial could possibly gain a conviction. For sentencing purposes, however, a no contest plea is the same as a guilty plea.
Under the plea agreement, Sheaffer would serve no more than two years at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility. His sentencing date is scheduled for Nov. 15, the same day a co-defendant, the mother of the infant child, is expected to be accepted into the accelerated rehabilitative disposition program for not reporting the alleged abuse. If she completes the program successfully, she could petition the court to have her record expunged.
Snook said Keller was prepared to testify during the trial.
"This was a tragic situation any way you look at it. ... My main concern is the welfare of this child," Snook said.
Dorward said he would comment on the case after his client was sentenced on the above date.
Also under the plea agreement for Sheaffer is a no-contact clause pertaining to his son.
Judge Kenneth A. Mummah said there is a pending custody case regarding the infant.
According to court documents, there were several allegations brought forth by Keller pertaining to the night of June 25, 2010 when she says she brought the child to Shawn Feltman's residence, where she says Sheaffer had been hanging out.
According to court documents, while at Feltman's, Sheaffer threw a piece of pizza crust at the child, which struck him in the crotch and at one point Sheaffer put the child in a pizza box.
Police said Keller told them that on the drive home, the baby began to fuss and Sheaffer stuck his finger in his mouth to calm him and the child then began to gag.
Police said Keller pulled the car over and used a suction syringe to remove any mucus from the baby's mouth and noticed blood. The child also went limp and his eyes were crossed.
Keller continued to drive home while Sheaffer held the baby in the front passenger seat. Keller said Sheaffer hit the baby's face and upper body, at which point the child let out a high pitched scream, court documents indicate.
Sheaffer then held the child out the window of the moving car for a period of 15 seconds, court documents indicate.
Police said Keller was then threatened by Sheaffer who said he would slit the throats of her and the baby if she took the child to the hospital because he would go to jail.
According to court documents, when Sheaffer and Keller arrived back at their house Sheaffer repeated "Just die, just die, I hate you. Just die," and then he continued to threaten Keller and the baby.
An ambulance was called and the baby was taken to Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, police said.
Police said Keller also reported that on the night of June 24, 2010, the infant was left with Sheaffer while she went to the grocery store. When Keller returned, Sheaffer allegedly told her to never leave him alone with the child again.
According to court documents, Keller picked the child up, who was shaking and had bruises on his legs.
Sheaffer remains free on bail pending sentencing.