ShareThis Page

3 men to stand trial over runaway Latrobe foster children

| Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 10:36 p.m.

A 17-year-old girl testified she called a Pittsburgh man for help to run away from a foster home because she felt it was inappropriate for one of the foster parents to bathe her younger sisters.

“The lady was bathing my sister, and I have pictures,” Brittney Dainty testified on Tuesday during a preliminary hearing for the man and two others accused in the May 14 incident that police said began in Latrobe and ended in Uniontown.

“I said, ‘Come get me,' ” Dainty testified, describing how she used a cell phone to call Joseph William Sickler, 41, an ex-boyfriend of her mother's. “I feel this is disgusting. Everybody else never did this to my sisters.”

Sickler; Erik Sean-Michael Spaziani, 18, of Charleroi; and Jacques Johns Jr., 18, of Uniontown were held for trial after the hearing before Uniontown District Judge Michael Metros on charges of interference with the custody of children, conspiracy and concealment of the whereabouts of a child.

Foster mother Janet Harr of Latrobe testified the five Washington County girls, ranging in age from 1 to 17, were placed in her care just after 6 p.m. on May 13. She testified the girls were fed and played outside before they were brought inside for baths.

The girls went to bed in an upstairs bedrooms at midnight, Harr testified, but were gone five minutes later.

“I did not hear them going down the steps,” Harr testified. “The only thing my husband heard was the door slam.”

Brittney Dainty testified that she; her 1-year-old daughter, Neveah; and her three sisters, Danielle, 14, Cassie, 11, and Hannah, 7, went to a nearby garage, where they met Sickler in his van. Dainty testified she was surprised to see her boyfriend, Spaziani, and ex-boyfriend, Johns, with Sickler because she had called only Sickler for help.

“I don't see why they are getting in trouble,” Dainty testified. “They were trying to help me.”

In a criminal complaint, police said the men and girls traveled as far as Cumberland, Md., before returning to Fayette County and sleeping in the van.

About 9:30 a.m. May 14, the men dropped off the girls at a home on Lenox Street in Uniontown.

Dainty on Tuesday testified she had Sickler walk her sisters partway to the city police station around 3 p.m., “right after I found out I was all over the Internet.”

Police had released the girls' names and photographs when they left the foster home. News outlets ran stories seeking the public's help to find them.

After the three girls arrived at the Uniontown Police Station on May 14, officers found Sickler walking away from the Lenox Street address. Spaziani was found hiding in the basement, police said, and Brittney Dainty and her daughter were found inside the residence.

Johns turned himself in on May 15, police said.

Trooper James Garlick testified Sickler told him he was with the other two men in Charleroi when Brittney Dainty called him because she was upset over the baths.

A Washington County Children and Youth Services caseworker said the five girls remain in foster care but are no longer in the Latrobe home.

Sickler, Johns and Spaziani are in the Fayette County Jail in lieu of $25,000 percentage bonds.

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.