Skip to comments.Prosecutor: Father starved 4-year-old daughter to death
Posted on 11/02/2004 6:16:02 AM PST by the_devils_advocate_666
KITTANNING, Pa. -- Although a 4-year-old girl had a birth defect that kept her from eating normally, it had been surgically corrected and it was her father's deliberate withholding of food as discipline that led to her death, a prosecutor said Monday.
Jurors heard opening statements Monday in the death penalty trial of James Tartar. Kristen Tatar's partially decomposed and emaciated body -- she weighed less than 12 pounds -- was found stuffed into a picnic cooler that had been set out behind Tatar's hou se for trash men to pick up in August 2003, about a month after she died.
Armstrong County Assistant District Attorney Chase McClister promised the jury during his opening statement that he would show them photos of Kristen to make his case. The girl was a ''healthy, happy, chubby-cheeked child'' when she was returned to her family from foster care in September 2001, but became ''shockingly thin'' shortly before she died, McClister said.
Authorities charged Tatar and the girl's mother, Janet Crawford, 36, with criminal homicide, and Crawford has since said the girl was kept in the attic and not fed for nearly a week before she died.
Crawford pleaded guilty to criminal homicide and agreed to testify against Tatar.
The body of 4-year-old Kristen Tatar, weighing just 12 pounds, was found in a picnic cooler at her Armstrong County home last week. Her parents, James Tatar and Janet Crawford, are accused of murder.
In a Team 4 exclusive, two of Kristen Tatar's half-sisters spoke with Paul Van Osdol about the girl. That report, which aired Aug. 14 on Action News, appears below.
Jaycee and Jocelyn Reese had not seen their half-sister, Kristen (pictured, left), in two years.
In June, Jaycee tried to rekindle her relationship with her mother, Janet Crawford. She started spending time with Crawford and her husband, James Tatar. One of Jaycee's first questions was, "Where's Kristen?"
Jaycee Reese: "I asked several times when I went back, and it was always either she's in rehab or at Catholic Charities."
But Jaycee had doubts, especially after hearing about what her mother called the forbidden room -- Kristen's bedroom.
Van Osdol: "Why was it called the forbidden room?"
Jaycee: "Because it had a very strong odor and she said not to go in there."
Jaycee also got concerned when she asked her 5-year-old half-brother, Nick, about Kristen.
Jaycee: "He said when Kristen was bad, Mom put her in the attic. I said, 'Where is she now?' And he said, 'I think she's still up in the attic.'"
Jaycee was too afraid to go into the attic. One night, when Crawford and her husband went out, she did go to the forbidden room.
Jaycee: "There were clothes everywhere, toolboxes, coolers. It was just a junk room, basically."
Van Osdol: "Did you see any sign of Kristen when you went in there?"
Jaycee: "Just a toddler bed, two pairs of shoes and a teddy bear. No clothes, nothing else."
Her mom blamed the foul odor on water seeping up from a crawl space, but Jaycee thinks it was something else.
Jaycee: "I believe they had Kristen's body in the crawlspace and they moved it to the cooler. In order for that room to have that odor, it had to be quite a while."
The girls moved to the Stahlstown home of Michelle Reese two years ago -- first as her foster daughters, and then as her adopted daughters. It was Michelle Reese who first contacted authorities after Jaycee raised questions about Kristen.
Michelle Reese: "When I know that Janet, her mother, let her go through that house with her dead sister, let her spend nights there, it makes me sick."
Jaycee and her sister, Jocelyn, are still trying to cope with the reality that their mother and her husband are charged with killing their half-sister, Kristen.
Jocelyn: "I wouldn't put it past them that they're guilty. That's hard, it really is, because that's my mom."
The two young girls seem composed, but their adoptive mother says there have been many tears during the past week.
Loss for words
There is no punishment that would be cruel or unusual enough for these monsters.
I'm glad she's dead. Better to be dead and in heaven, than to suffer. Speaking of suffering, I like the eye for an eye philosophy!
Short rope, big tree...
This scum lived several miles from my house. I know folks who were neighbors. This scum deserves eternal Hell.
Ah, family reunification policy at it's finest.
What is disgusting is that the 5 yr old boy will now be abused in a series of foster homes rather than have the parental rights severed and be put up for adoption.
And no doubt they will try to unify the boy with his parents as soon as they are out on parole.
They deserve the death penalty.
I agree with the "Boortz Principle".
You are put to death the way your killed your victim.
Stick um' in a locked room and through away the key.
No - too easy - starve them to death slowly as they did this poor child.
These are legitimate grounds for termination of parental rights. There is no reason why the boy shouldn't be free for adoption.
Tie them up, cover them with slop and throw them in the pig pen.
May the Lord Bless and keep you... and make His face shine upon you....and bring you peace....
Rest in peace darling.
Sounds like true Democrats, kill kids and pretend it didn't happen.
Amen! Death is this little angels' release...God will care for her and she will never remember her pain. BTW, let her "parents" spend their "lives" in prison, watching TV, buying drugs from other prisoners, etc. Judgement Day is the true punishment for these demons. I wish we could mob around where the "parents" are being held, storm the place, drag them out and set them on fire. I know, I know, that's not WWJD.
What a beautiful little child she was . . . horrible, just horrible.
Do you really think his social worker is going to fast track him into adoption?
Or will they just place him in a series of foster homes and forget about him except when he's a problem and has to be moved?
Put this boy on your prayer list because he needs someone to take him in and make him a part of a healthy and permanent family.
I'm content to let "The Big Guy" upstairs handle Judgement Day.
I'm also content with making sure scum and slim balls get to the front of the judgement line just as quick as our laws can get them there.