AP NEWS

Therapist tells of siblings’ ordeals

April 7, 2019

Four siblings of a 2-year-old girl who died last year told authorities their mother’s boyfriend was abusive.

Therapist Staci Rader said in court Friday she began meeting with the children : three girls and a boy : after Jocelyn “JoJo” Belcher was found Jan. 27, 2018, wrapped tight in a blanket and “cold to the touch with rigor mortis,” according to court documents. They said Shane A. Patton hit them, placed his hand over mouths and wrapped JoJo and at least one other sibling so tightly in blankets that they couldn’t move.

One child told Rader that Patton, 31, held a sibling : the boy : out a second-story window. Punishments meted out by Patton included being banished to a darkened basement and standing or kneeling in uncomfortable positions for long periods, Rader said she was told.

JoJo’s sister “said Jocelyn would shake and tremble when Shane came near,” Rader said.

Patton is charged with three counts of felony neglect in the girl’s death and faces up to 581/2 years in prison if he is convicted on each count. A three-day trial is scheduled July 30.

Crystal Belcher, 29, JoJo’s mother, also faced three felony neglect charges but pleaded guilty last month to one of the charges as part of a plea agreement. She could spend three years in prison and has agreed to testify against Patton.

She is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 2.

Rader and psychologist David Lombard were among witnesses who testified Friday in Allen Superior Court at a hearing in which they were asked whether the children should testify in open court. Both agreed doing so would be harmful.

Doctors told police JoJo had injuries including forearm fractures that had healed that were consistent with abuse, and testimony Friday indicated the children who lived in the East Butler Street home feared Patton.

Belcher knew that and did nothing, according to the testimony.

One of the girls said “Shane hurt JoJo” and “made a punching gesture,” Rader said.

“I was home when he did that,” another girl said, according to Lombard.

Lombard said each of the children has been diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

The siblings told authorities they often went hungry and had to sneak downstairs to find food.

Patton sat next to defense attorney Ryan Gardner and shook his head no at least twice while witnesses testified.

Gardner asked for details about how the children were questioned and whether their answers : in some cases given months after JoJo died : are accurate. Rader and Lombard said they do not ask the children leading questions and indicated the siblings’ answers were consistent.

mleblanc@jg.net