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Belle Vernon girls showed signs of being abused, doctor testifies

Mary Pickels
| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

A Belle Vernon girl's “frightening” injuries were caused by child abuse and her sibling's head injury resulted from being shaken, a physician and child advocate testified on Thursday.

The physician's testimony was made during a preliminary hearing for Joshua Nathaniel Tannous, 19, of Bentleyville, who is accused of inflicting the injuries while he was staying at the Belle Vernon home of the children's parents, Matthew and Tracy Price in February.

The Prices were charged with endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment. In May, they waived their rights to preliminary hearings on the charges and agreed to testify against Tannous.

Tannous, who is charged with two counts each of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, simple assault and reckless endangerment, was ordered to stand trial in an hour-long hearing before Star Junction District Judge Richard Kasunic II.

The children, then 2 years and 6 months, were taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh where they were treated for injuries allegedly suffered while in Tannous' care.

Dr. Jennifer Wolford testified she examined the infant first, who was brought to the hospital after she apparently stopped breathing while Tannous fed her.

In addition to a head injury, the child had a “well-healed burn” on her left palm, which Wolford said the parents told her occurred while she was under the care of another adult.

At one point, it was determined the baby would be admitted to the hospital, so the father went home to pick up the couple's 2-year-old and bring her back to the hospital.

When he returned, he and his wife asked the doctor to look at bruises on that child.

“Those bruises were unbelievable,” she said.

The child's upper chest area was red, and X-rays showed both collarbones fractured and severed, Wolford said.

“I can't imagine the force it took to break a 2-year-old's collarbone, both at the same time,” she said.

Under questioning by Tannous' defense attorney, David Kaiser, Wolford said she had no direct knowledge of who inflicted the children's injuries.

Southwest Regional police Lt. Stephen Schwartz testified that during interviews with Tannous he acknowledged being a caregiver for the children.

He told Schwartz he fed the infant on the morning of Feb. 4.

“He said milk began pouring out of her nose and she fell unconscious and stopped breathing,” Schwartz said.

Tannous said he stayed at the home with the 2-year-old while her parents went to the hospital with the baby.

Schwartz said Tannous admitted consuming a quarter of a bottle of whiskey and smoking marijuana, and became angry “and lost control” when the girl would not go to sleep.

Tannous said he picked the girl up and shook her, then “put her on the bed hard.”

“He stood up and made a slamming motion,” Schwartz said.

Tannous remains free on $35,000 bail. He will be arraigned in Fayette County Common Pleas Court on Sept. 18.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or

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