Mom, grandparents take pleas in case of starved 7-year-old

Created: 02/06/2015 6:21 PM

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The mother and grandparents of a 7-year-old boy who was so malnourished that one doctor said he looked like a Holocaust survivor pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated assault for failing to seek timely medical attention for him.

The boy's mother, 28-year-old Mary Rader, and grandmother, 48-year-old Deana Beighley, acknowledged "recklessly causing serious bodily injury" to the boy, who weighed 25 pounds when child welfare workers took him from his home in Greenville in June. The boy lived there with the three adult defendants and his three siblings.

Mercer County Judge Christopher St. John ruled this week that the boy's stepgrandfather, 59-year-old Dennis Beighley, wasn't directly involved in the boy's care. The judge dismissed more serious charges against Dennis Beighley, who pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child.

District Attorney Robert Kochems had argued the adults purposely withheld food from the boy at his grandmother's urging because she didn't like him. His siblings were well-fed and healthy, the DA said.

The boy was removed from the home after a neighbor saw him outside and reported a "walking skeleton" to authorities. He was taken to Greenville Medical Center, where a doctor reported: "The young man is so emaciated he looks like a Holocaust survivor," police said. Another doctor said the boy was one month from dying.

But Deana Beighley's attorney, Neil Rothschild, said the adults loved and cared for the boy and blamed his condition on a growth hormone problem.

"The factual basis for the plea is the boy lost a good bit of weight due to some health problems and eating issues, and they neglected to get him medical attention because they feared, correctly, that if he saw a health care professional, he'd be removed from the home," Rothschild said.

The stepgrandfather's attorney, Matthew Parson, said his client "probably, in the end, realizes he could have done more by at least calling the doctor or the hospital." Parson said the man cares about the boy and regrets not doing more.

The attorney for the boy's mother didn't immediately return calls seeking comment Friday.

At a preliminary hearing in August, a district judge had ordered all three to stand trial on charges including conspiracy to commit attempted murder.

The DA said the prosecution hasn't budged from its theory despite agreeing to dismiss the attempted murder conspiracy charges and others in crafting a plea bargain at Friday's pretrial conference. The adults had been scheduled to stand trial next month.

Kochems said Deana Beighley faces five to 10 years in prison when the defendants return to court April 27.

That's the same sentence she would have faced if convicted on the attempted murder charge, Kochems said, explaining why he was comfortable dropping that count.

Rader likely faces a minimum sentence of three to 4½ years in prison, while Dennis Beighley could get less than two years in prison and serve his time in county jail instead of state prison, the attorneys said.

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