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Mahoning couple charged with endangering children

Published February 09. 2011 05:00PM

A Mahoning Township couple was charged with endangering the welfare of children after their two young children knocked on the door of a neighborhood home on Jan. 19, showed the neighbor a picture of the man and woman asleep, and said they were worried because they had been unable to awaken them.

Wallace R. Baldwin, 26, of the 100 block of Jamestown Street, and Melissa A. Pankevitch, 27, formerly of the 100 block of Jamestown Street and now living in the 700 block of Princeton Ave., Palmerton, were both charged with endangering the welfare of children. Baldwin was arrested on Feb. 5 and arraigned before District Judge Edward Lewis, Jim Thorpe. He was committed to the Carbon County Correctional Facility under $20,000 bail. The Carbon County Adult Probation and Parole Department also issued a detainer placed against him.

Pankevitch surrendered herself to Mahoning Township police on Monday. She was arraigned before Lewis and released on unsecured bail.

The children, who are 5 and 7 years old, had been roaming the snow and ice-covered sidewalks and streets of the neighborhood in the dark. According to information in an affidavit of probable cause released by Police Chief Kenneth Barnes, here's what happened:

Police were called to a home in the 100 block of Jamestown Street at 7:28 p.m. on a report of an unresponsive male and female, naked in bed. Ambulance crews were also called.

When police arrived on scene, the grandmother and a friend of the children told police that attempts to wake the couple failed, that they would not wake up. The grandmother and friend first learned of the condition of the man and woman through the couple's children, a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. The children had been roaming the street and went to the home of a neighbor for help. The police officer and family friend entered the residence and entered the room where the couple were. When the police officer entered the room, he observed the couple lying naked in the bed. They did not respond to shaking them or yelling their names. Both were breathing at this time.

While inside of the room, the officer observed clothing all over the floor, individual cigarettes on the floor, and half smoked cigarettes laying on the floor and TV stand. All of these items were all within reach of the children.

On the bed there was a video camera that was still turned on. The couple woke up when ambulance crews began to move them to provide care. When the emergency medical workers questioned the man as to whether he had taken any narcotics that day, he stated that he had taken three or four anxiety pills. The woman then told police that she had taken a shower and then the couple had had sex. The woman also confirmed that was why there was a video camera on the bed.

While the couple got dressed, the officer checked the area of the bathroom for any signs of narcotic use. The officer found feces inside of the toilet that was not flushed, and the tub had numerous pieces of long and short hairs inside of it. The officer could not locate any signs of narcotic use inside of the bathroom, and continued downstairs. In the living room, there was a pack of opened cigarettes lying on the floor next to the children's' toys. There was also an ashtray with at least 50 cigarette butts in it lying on the coffee table. All these items were also in reach of the children.

A case Worker from the Carbon County Children and Youth Services agency was on scene and questioned the parents about their children. When asked where the children were, both of them did not have any idea. The woman further stated and/or confirmed the children were at the house when the couple fell asleep. The woman was unsure as to what time they fell asleep, but said she knew it wasn't before 4 p.m.

The investigating police officer and case worker then went to the neighbor's home, where the children were, to speak with the neighbor and the children. On the walk up, the road was completely dark, the road and sidewalks were ice and snow covered, and it was no more than 30 degrees outside. Police first spoke with the neighbor/resident, who advised the investigating police officer and caseworker that the children came running up to the house at 6 p.m. The little boy showed the resident/neighbor a picture of his father and mother naked on the bed, and told them that he could not wake them up. The resident/neighbor then contacted the grandmother.

Barnes noted in his news release that the investigating officer conducted a follow-up investigation with Carbon County Children and Youth Services agency and with the Carbon County District Attorney's Office. On Feb. 3, arrest warrants were approved charging Baldwin Pankevitch.

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