SUNBURY — Calling the criminal homicide case of 3-year-old Arabella Parker one of the most horrific he’s presided over in his 19 years as a judge, Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III ruled the prosecution presented enough evidence Thursday during a three-hour preliminary hearing to hold Jahrid J. Burgess for court on all charges, including an open count of criminal homicide.
Prior to Burgess’ legal proceeding, his former girlfriend and Parker’s mother, Samantha Jo Delcamp, waived her right to a preliminary hearing before Gembic. She was represented by conflicts counsel Michael O’Donnell.
Parker died Nov. 22 after clinging to life in the pediatric intensive care unit at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville for more than a month after allegedly being severely beaten by Burgess in the presence of Delcamp, police said.
Both defendants, who have been denied bail due to the criminal homicide charge filed against them by Trooper Brian Siebert, of State Police at Stonington, were ordered to appear for status conferences next month in Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas.
Burgess and Delcamp remain in Northumberland County Jail and Snyder County Prison, respectively.
After issuing his ruling, Gembic stated, “I am going to go home tonight and once again say a prayer for this child, and I would ask that everyone in this courtroom here today and everyone in our communities remain united and continue to do the same in Arabella’s memory.”
He added, “In this tragic case, many things were uncovered and presented to this court by the state police and district attorney’s office. Not only the defendants that are here before me today failed Arabella, it appears that the system that was put in place to protect her also failed. I would urge the district attorney to continue his vigorous investigation into uncovering anyone who has failed Arabella and hold them fully accountable.”
Burgess, 19, of 725 W. Shamokin St., Trevorton, is accused of committing the crimes between July 19 and Oct. 10 at his home, where he lived with the victim and the 24-year-old Delcamp.
Delcamp faces multiple charges including criminal homicide for serving as an accomplice to Burgess’ actions.
Burgess’ hearing included testimony by Siebert and Northumberland County Children and Youth Services Caseworker Brittany Duke-Williams, videos of state police interviews with Burgess and Delcamp in which Burgess admits physically abusing Parker, and graphic photographs presented by District Attorney Tony Matulewicz depicting Parker’s numerous injuries and the victim being hooked up to a breathing tube and multiple wires while lying in a hospital bed.
During the interview with Burgess, which lasted six hours, Siebert said the defendant initially denied the allegations against him. But he said Burgess then changed his story and claimed Delcamp caused the injuries before later admitting to beating the child himself.
Siebert testified that authorities are awaiting the results of Parker’s autopsy conducted Nov. 26 by Dr. Rakeem Sterling-Roney at Forensics Pathology Services in the Allentown area. The trooper said specialists plan to review the autopsy report before rendering an official cause of death.
Siebert, who was present for the autopsy along with Matulewicz, said part of Parker’s brain had to be removed after she suffered the severe injuries from the beating.
He said Montour County Coroner Scott Lynn pronounced Parker dead at 1:22 p.m. Nov. 22 after she had been removed two days earlier from a life-support system.
The trooper said a rape kit was done on the child with the results pending.
As he did during Burgess’ previous hearing before the defendant was charged with criminal homicide, Siebert testified that there were 7,000 pages of medical records pertaining to Parker.
Siebert said the injuries suffered by Parker included bruised lungs, acute brain bleeding, bi-lateral hematoma, internal bleeding of the abdomen, multiple rib fractures, a bi-lateral fracture to both clavicles, vaginal bleeding and scattered abrasions all over her body.
Siebert said police conducted an interview Oct. 11 with Delcamp at the state police station in Stonington. He said Delcamp reported that Burgess assaulted her at least 10 times and her daughter a minimum of four times between July 20 and Oct. 10.
The trooper said Delcamp told police Burgess smacked Parker hard in the stomach in July and punched her in the right and left side of her ribs, causing them to break.
In August, Siebert said Delcamp claimed Burgess punched her so hard that it broke her bones.
At 1 p.m. Oct. 6, the trooper testified that Delcamp said Burgess threw Parker onto a chair in the living room, smacked her in the face, kicked and punched her in the back and stomped on her stomach, causing her ribs and collarbone to break. Delcamp also claimed Burgess threw the 3-year-old girl onto a bed and punched her in the butt and back.
According to information provided by Delcamp to police, Siebert said Burgess also is accused of throwing the child into a bath tub and turning the water on before pushing Delcamp into the shower, causing her to fall onto the girl.
Delcamp told police Burgess then grabbed her by the hair and dragged her into the living room before assaulting her, causing her to break her ribs and wrist.
At 9 p.m. Oct. 10, Siebert said Burgess is accused of grabbing the child by the throat, picking her off the ground and pushing her into the living room wall. As the girl was walking away, Burgess allegedly shoved her to the ground, causing her to fall on her hands and knees.
Shortly after that, the girl began having seizures, according to Siebert’s testimony.
During an interview with police on Oct. 11, Siebert said Burgess recalled receiving a text message regarding him abusing Parker and Delcamp, which made him upset and caused him to slap and punch Delcamp on Oct. 6.
He admitted to also slapping, punching and kicking the 3-year-old girl in the back and forcing both victims to march up and down the hallway while he watched football.
Burgess told police that on Oct. 10, he picked up Parker by the shoulders because she wouldn’t eat, pinned her against the wall and put her on the ground before picking her back up and throwing her on the floor in his attempt to throw her on a couch.
Siebert said Dr. Paul Bellino’s examination of Parker at Geisinger found the child suffered a series of internal injuries reflecting a recent history of abuse.
Bellino found that Parker had multiple fractures throughout her rib cage, with some injuries having occurred from two to three weeks prior to the Oct. 10 attack and others six to eight months old.
Duke-Williams testified that she was on-call when summoned to Geisinger Medical Center at 1 a.m. Oct. 11 for a report of suspected child abuse.
She said hospital staff informed her that Burgess was hostile toward them and became very defensive. The caseworker said Burgess claimed Parker was eating a snack at 10 p.m. Oct. 10 at her home when she experienced a seizure for about 10 minutes. She said the child was unresponsive upon arriving in the emergency room, where she had vomited at some point and had dilated pupils.
Duke-Williams said Burgess denied that he or other family members caused harm to Parker.
The caseworker, who read a list of Parker’s injuries to the court, said Burgess told her during an interview that Parker was not abused. He claimed the child was very active and bruised easily.
Duke-Williams said Burgess also claimed the child had suffered a seizure a month or two ago, but there was no report of her being seen by a physician.
She said Burgess informed her that 9-1-1 was called when the seizure didn’t stop. He claimed the ambulance took an hour to get to his home. Burgess said he was the only person alone with the child within the last two days.
Duke-Williams said she also interviewed Delcamp and Burgess’ mother, Christy Willis, who is charged in the case as well. The caseworker said she talked with three doctors about Parker’s condition and was later interviewed by state police.
Burgess’ attorney Richard Feudale, who requested all the charges be dismissed against his client, took offense when Siebert said a rape kit was taken at the autopsy.
He said there was no evidence of the child being raped. He said Bellino’s report indicated no hemorrhaging or bruising in Parker’s vaginal area.
Feudale argued that a criminal homicide charge is not warranted in the case. He said there was no malice or intent by Burgess to kill Parker. He also questioned Delcamp’s creditability in claiming his client inflicted the child’s critical injuries and why Burgess underwent a six-hour “interrogation” by police.
Matulewicz said there were several breaks during the interview in which Burgess was offered food, drinks and a cigarette.
In his summation, the district attorney said Burgess “created a culture of abuse in that house.” He said the commonwealth presented more than enough evidence to bound the case over to Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas.”
Gembic denied Feudale’s request to reduce his client’s bail.
Willis, 50, of 1343 Plum Creek Road, Sunbury, is charged by Siebert with felonies of obstructing a child abuse case and hindering apprehension or prosecution and a misdemeanor of providing false reports to law enforcement.
She was previously held for court by Gembic and ordered to appear for a status conference Jan. 13 at the courthouse.
Willis remains in Northumberland County Jail in lieu of $200,000 cash bail.