3 men to stand trial over runaway Latrobe foster children
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.