A Pennsylvania couple were each jailed up to 40 years in the death of their disabled son and the near-death of his younger sister.
Jarrod Tutko Sr., 39, and Kimberly Tutko, 40, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and related offenses and Judge John Cherry of Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas held them equally culpable, Reuters reports.
Jarrod Tutko Jr. was found starved to death in a dark, feces-smeared room last year. His sister, Arianne, was clinging to life in her own bedroom.
Judge Cherry sentenced the father to 21 to 42 years in prison and his wife 20 to 40 years. They were also held liable for the near-death of Arianna, now 12.
Cherry castigated both parents, who were sentenced separately, but he reserved harshest criticism for Kimberly Tutko.
“We don’t even keep animals like that,” he said. “It’s inconceivable that you allowed this to happen,” the judge said.
Before his sentencing, Jarrod Tutko Sr. pleaded for understanding, saying mental health problems drove him to confine his son in a filthy upstairs room in the family’s Harrisburg home.
“Your honor, I am not a monster. I am not a dangerous individual,” he said, weeping through much of the hearing. “I loved my child. I tried my hardest.”
But his attorney, Bradley Winnick, conceded that the case represented “a catastrophic failure of parenting”.
Prosecutor Sean McCormack had urged they receive the maximum possible sentence but Cherry knocked off a few years as credit for their guilty pleas.
The couple lived with their six children, all but one of whom was disabled, in a rented home less than three blocks from the Pennsylvania governor’s official residence.
Jarrod Jr. suffered from Fragile-X Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes intellectual and behavioral disabilities, according to the National Fragile X Foundation.
His parents kept the boy locked in a third-floor room with no bed or lights. A social worker, Carrie Shanahan, testified that the feces had been smeared by little fingers.
Police were summoned to the home on Aug. 1, 2014. They found Jarrod Tutko Jr., shrunken and dead, rolled in a blanket. His sister was clinging to life in her own bedroom but has since recovered, according to court testimony.
Kimberly Tutko portrayed herself as a battered wife who wished only that her son could come back to life so that she could apologize for not being a better mother.
Her attorney, Michael Palermo, said she was a classic battered woman, the victim of a man who knew how to hurt her without leaving visible marks.
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