Negligent mom faces long jail term
Calling Roxanne Taylor's neglect of her young twins one of the worse cases she's ever heard, a Washington County judge on Friday sentenced the New Eagle woman to 14 to 50 years in state prison.
Common Pleas Judge Katherine B. Emery admonished Taylor – whose 6-year-old son and daughter were found to be emaciated and living in filth – before imposing the lengthy sentence.
Taylor, 26, wearing a orange prison jump suit and handcuffs, breathed heavily and stared down at the table during the hearing.
She shook her head in disagreement several times as assistant District Attorney Traci McDonald recalled the children's living conditions.
Emery, never raising her voice, told Taylor she treated her children like the 32 animals that – at one point – all lived in the woman's house at 353 Seventh Ave.
The judge referred to the home as “a literal house of horrors.”
A jury convicted Taylor in July of two counts each of aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and endangering the welfare of children.
“This case has been one of the worst cases I've ever presided over at trial, and I've had murders and rapes … but what makes it so horrible is it really spanned a period of five years,” Emery said. The judge said Taylor's failure to show remorse was additional factor for the lengthy sentence.
“Parenting is hard work. Most parents would say that being a parent is the hardest job in the world, but you didn't do the hard part,” Emery said.
“You didn't potty train them. If they were acting up at night, you just locked them in their room.”
The standard range of sentencing in similar cases involving children ranges from 22 to 36 months in prison, McDonald said.
The prosecutor said she was “satisfied” with the punishment, the most lengthy in her tenure for such a case.
“This situation was much too egregious for us to seek standard sentencing guidelines,” McDonald said afterward.
The twins' father, Edward J. Buckholz, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of aggravated assault. He is scheduled for sentencing 1 p.m. Sept. 20.
McDonald confirmed Taylor was offered a plea deal that would have carried a five- to 10-year jail sentence. Taylor rejected it and went to trial.
Taylor and Buckholz were arrested after their son was found wandering in the middle of the road on a cold February 2012 morning. A motorist, Edward Dermont, found the boy wearing only a diaper and a T-shirt. Police said the boy left the house by climbing out a second-story window.
Monongahela police Officer Pete Rocco found the home to be filthy, with the children covered in feces and weighing less than 35 pounds apiece.
Their bedroom was padlocked from the outside and a full potty chair was found in the middle of the bedroom.
The children were in need of physical, speech and occupational therapy, officials said.
“They were not fed properly. They were not cared for properly,” Emery told Taylor on Friday. “There was a potty chair in the middle of the floor … and it was next to their bed – with odors and germs near them. A potty chair goes in a bathroom or goes in a place away from where humans sleep and live.”
The children, within weeks of being removed from the home, gained 20 pounds apiece and had been potty trained. They are now living in separate foster care homes in undisclosed locations, McDonald noted.
McDonald said Washington County Children & Youth Services caseworkers had attempted to help the couple numerous times since 2008 after responding to concerns over the children's welfare.
“She was given multiple opportunities by the system to correct her actions,” McDonald said of Taylor. “Most parents don't have someone that's going to come and sit and tell you how to feed and care for your children.
“She didn't just have that on one, two or even three occasions. It was multiple occasions and still these children were found in this state.
“I think her actions clearly establish she was intentionally neglecting her children, and I think that's what the jury found.”
As he did during the trial, defense attorney Andrew Glasgow continued to argue the merits of the aggravated assault charge Friday. He repeatedly insisted the children did not suffer “prolonged or permanent bodily injury.”
He called on Emery to issue only the mandatory minimum of five years in prison for the charge – minus one year – and that the judge give no additional jail time for the other charges because of “mitigating factors.”
Glasgow claimed Taylor is no threat to society and requested credit for jail time already served, which Emery granted.
Taylor has been held in the Washington County Correctional Facility since March 28, 2012.
Emery disagreed with Glasgow's assessments.
“Weighing 35 pounds is serious bodily injury,” Emery repeatedly said before imposing the sentence.
When Glasgow urged his client to speak on her own behalf, Taylor muttered in hushed, low tones. Fighting back tears, she told the court she was taking GED and other classes and wanted to be a productive member of society upon her release.
“Neither you nor Mr. Buckholz worked. ... You could've at least taken turns being with (the twins) and you didn't do that,” said Emery, adding the children conveyed “no bond” with either parent when removed from the home.
“You treated them like you treat your dogs. You just put them in a cage, fed them occasionally. Maybe you cared for them, but you didn't love and interact with them. ... Those critical formative years, from birth to 5, were fleeting, and they have been lost forever.”
“Any lesser punishment would depreciate the seriousness of these crimes.”
Glasgow withdrew as Taylor's attorney after the sentencing. If Taylor cannot raise money to hire an attorney to file appeals, she will be able to apply for representation by a public defender.
Taylor will remain in the county jail for 30 days before being transferred to a state correctional institution.
District Attorney Gene Vittone commended Dermont, Monongahela police, McDonald and detectives with the District Attorney Special Victims Prosecution Unit.
“Thankfully this case did not involve the deaths of these two young children primarily because of the actions of a (motorist) passing and a good police and EMS response,” Vittone said in a statement. “(McDonald) and our Special Victims Unit will continue to work hard to protect our most vulnerable citizens, our children, from neglect and abuse.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.