Carbon woman found guilty of endangering welfare of a child
A Carbon County woman was found guilty Wednesday afternoon in the county court of endangering the welfare of a child.
Stephanie Lynn Gerhart, now Stephanie Lynn Schuster, 27, of Parryville, was found not guilty of criminal conspiracy-endangering the welfare of a child. Her co-defendant, and former husband, Joshua Nathanie Gerhart, 31, of Kunkletown, was found not guilty of both charges.
Senior Judge Richard W. Webb made the decision in the case after listening to a full day of testimony from the mother of the child, police officers and a pediatric doctor who specializes in child abuse cases. Both defendants also testified and denied any wrongdoing.
The two were not charged with causing the injuries sustained by the child but were charged with not getting medical attention for the child.
The victim of the child abuse was a then 18-month old boy.
Testimony revealed that Joshua Gerhart had shared custody with the boy's mother, Amanda Lang. He would have the boy from Thursday at 4 p.m. until Sunday at 7 p.m.
On July 29, 2004, Gerhart took custody of the boy and took him to his then home in Parryville. On Sunday, Lang went to the home to get the child.
She returned to her home and about an hour later, when getting the boy ready for a bath, took off his diaper and observed severe injuries to the boy's genital area. She took the boy to the Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital, Lehighton, for treatment. Lang's mother, who took photos of the injuries, notified Gerhart that the child was being taken to the hospital.
Gerhart went to the hospital where Lang confronted him about the injuries to the child. She said Gerhart denied any knowledge of the injuries.
Lang's mother testified briefly concerning the injuries and identified the photos she took of the child.
Cpl. Jill Mahady, of the state police, who investigated the matter, testified she interviewed both suspects and both denied any knowledge of the injuries or how they occurred.
Dr. Andrea Taroli, who was then associated with a medical facility in the Scranton area at the time of the incident, testified via video from the University of Kentucky where she is now a professor. She specializes in child abuse cases.
She said she examined the child and said the injuries sustained were severe. She also said she determined by the examination that the injuries occurred within two of three days of when she saw the child. She saw the child on Monday, Aug. 2, about 1 p.m.
Both Joshua Gerhart and Stephanie Gerhart Schuster denied any knowledge of the injuries. Joshua said he changed the child's diaper on Sunday morning before he went to work. Stephanie said she changed the child's diaper about an hour before Lang came to pick him up. Both said they did not see any injuries on the child nor notice anything wrong with the child the entire time he was in their care.
Webb said it was obvious the child was injured but that the two defendants were not charged with causing the injuries, but with not providing medical care.
Webb ruled that there was no evidence presented that showed the injuries existed at 7 a.m. on Sunday when Joshua Gerhart said he changed the child's diaper. He also said there was no evidence that Joshua and Stephanie conspired to cover up any wrongdoing.
However, Webb said Stephanie admitted changing the diaper an hour before Lang came to pick up the child. He said, "Those injuries did not occur an hour after the diaper was changed." He then found her guilty.
Webb deferred sentencing to a later date.
The charges were not filed until June 2006. In March 2007 the late Judge David W. Addy granted a motion to dismiss the charges against the two which was filed by defense attorneys. The district attorney's office appealed Addy's decision to the state Superior Court. In May 2008 the state court reversed Addy's decision and reinstated the charges.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Joseph Matika. Joshua Gerhart was represented by Atty. John Waldron and Stephanie Schuster by Atty. Stephen Vlossak Sr.