Belle Vernon parents charged in alleged child abuse
By Chris Buckley
Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 1:06 a.m.
Matthew Price told police he should have stopped placing his young children in the care of Joshua Tannous, “the first time he hurt the kids.”
Price also said he looked the other way because he needed help paying bills and did not want his own drug use exposed, according to a court document filed Monday after he was arrested.
Tannous, 19, of 106 Piersol Ave., Bentleyville, was charged Thursday with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
He is in the Fayette County Jail in lieu of $35,000 bond.
The charges were filed after Matthew and Tracy Price's daughters — ages 6 months and 2 years — ended up in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where they were treated for injuries allegedly suffered while under Tannous' care.
Tannous was the Prices' live-in babysitter.
The case turned Monday when Matthew Price, 21, and Tracy Price, 23, both of 20 Johnston St., Belle Vernon, were each charged with endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person.
The first criminal count is a felony because the couple allegedly allowed the children to be placed in danger on numerous occasions, police said.
The Prices were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Richard Kasunic in Perry Township and placed in the Fayette County Jail, each in lieu of $25,000 straight cash bond.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled 10:45 a.m. Feb. 21 before Kasunic.
Southwest Regional Police arrested the Prices in Uniontown on Monday as the couple awaited a custody hearing before Fayette County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Vernon.
“They were not happy. They could not believe it,” Southwest Regional Chief John Hartman said of the couple's reaction to being handcuffed prior to the county Children & Youth Services hearing.
The children's maternal grandparents were granted custody during the hearing.
Hartman said Vernon had been informed of the impending arrests. CYS officials had received updates on the police investigation since the children's injuries came to light last week.
Tannous faces a preliminary hearing 9 a.m. Friday before Kasunic.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed last week, Matthew Price told police Tannous had been left with the children on 12 occasions since early January. He told police that each time he returned home, he found Tannous impaired and detected a strong odor of marijuana in the house.
Price claimed Tannous failed to change the children's diapers, did not feed them and often fell asleep.
According to the affidavit, the 2-year-old suffered a laceration on her lip and bruising on her face Jan. 10. On Jan. 30, the 6-month-old suffered a burn on her hand.
Price said that when he returned home Feb. 4, he found Tannous asleep on the living room couch with two empty 750 ml bottles of liquor next to him, according to the affidavit. Price claimed Tannous was “drunk and incoherent,” police said. The 2-year-old was screaming and Price observed facial bruises and a lacerated lip on the child, records indicate.
The child was treated at Children's Hospital for two broken collar bones a fractured scapula and facial injuries.
According to the affidavit, Tannous admitted he was high and had consumed a quarter-bottle of whiskey on Feb. 4 while in charge of the children.
He told police the 2-year-old would not go asleep and screamed and cried. According to the court document, Tannous said he “became very mad” and “lost control,” shaking the child and dropping her before slamming her onto her bed.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed Monday, Matthew Price told police he did not want to report the children's abuse because he smokes marijuana in their presence.
He allegedly told police he wanted Tannous to “help pay off back bills such as the electric bills.”
Tracy Price admitted to smoking marijuana in front of her children three times in the past year, according to court documents.
Court records indicate the toddler was not taken to the hospital for at least 24 hours after being injured.
Tracy Price told police her husband found “bloody tissues” stuffed down the shirt of the 2-year-old on Feb. 4, according to the affidavit.
The child reportedly screamed when Matthew Price picked her up and could not raise her arms.
According to the affidavit, Tracy Price claimed her husband did not want to take the child to the hospital because “they would get the kids taken away.”
On Feb. 5, Matthew Price posted photos on Facebook of their 2-year-old's injuries, but his wife made him take them down “because she did not want people to find out about the injuries, because she felt as though the children would be taken away,” police contend.
“Clearly, there was a consistent pattern of neglect of these children,” Hartman said.
Hartman said he viewed photos of the injured child. CYS personnel have visited the child.
“When you consider the number of injuries and that the child was just 2-years-old and had to withstand those injuries ... that's unconscionable,” Hartman said. “That child should have been taken to the hospital immediately. The doctor said the child was in excruciating pain.
“I can't imagine the pain that child was in, and I can't imagine any excuse for permitting that child to be in that kind of pain for any period of time.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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