Grandmother testifies at child abuse trial that twins had ‘loving mother’
The child abuse trial of Roxanne Taylor was continued Friday afternoon until next week after “unforeseen circumstances” on the fourth day of testimony.
Washington County Judge Katherine Emery delayed testimony because of apparent problems with defense witnesses, although the jury could still have the case as soon as Monday.
Taylor, 26, of New Eagle, is accused of starving her 6-year-old twins, a boy and girl, raising them in poor living conditions and locking them in their bedroom with a door chain. The boy escaped from the room through a window and was found covered in feces by the road near his house Feb. 15, 2012.
Taylor is on trial facing charges of four counts of child endangerment, along with aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and false imprisonment. The children’s father, Edward J. Buckholz, 34, pleaded guilty in the case last month and is awaiting sentencing.
Taylor’s mother, Cydney Koepfer, took the stand Friday and vouched for her daughter’s parenting skills and the twins’ well-being.
She called her daughter a “loving mother” who tried to get her kids to eat vegetables by blending them into liquid. In the year before the incident, Koepfer testified she visited the children every day and took them to South Park, the movies and Chuck-E-Cheese’s at least once a week.
“They were always on the go,” Koepfer said. “Always active.”
She suggested for the couple to put a chain lock on the twins’ bedroom door to keep them from moving around the house at night. But Koepfer testified she was unaware the couple had also placed locks on the bedroom closet, toy chest and refrigerator.
Koepfer said the family had a birthday party for the children at her New Eagle home two weeks before the incident and they did not appear to be malnourished while eating ham barbecue sandwiches and cake. She maintained they looked healthy upon cross-examination after prosecutor Traci McDonald showed her photos of the children at the hospital with thin legs and distended stomachs.
Koepfer also did not find it unusual that the twins were still wearing “pull-up” diapers at 6 years old because she said her two children, including Roxanne, also wore diapers at that age.
She said she was supposed to take the children to Chuck-E-Cheese’s the day the boy escaped from his room and was found near the road. Koepfer described the hectic scene at Monongahela Valley Hospital as the family was prevented from seeing the twins.
“It was very hostile,” Koepfer said of how the CYS workers treated the family.
Taylor wiped tears from her eyes while her mother talked about the family leaving the hospital without the children. During a brief sidebar conference involving the attorneys and judge, Koepfer never looked at her daughter while she wept.
The day’s testimony adjourned a few minutes after restarting after the lunch break, and neither the mother nor daughter made any eye contact with each other while they left the courtroom separately.
On Thursday, Taylor’s defense attorney, Andrew Glasgow, tried to show that the parents received passing marks from family counselors for improving their parenting skills when CYS closed their case in March 2011. However, CYS and others monitoring the family apparently still had concerns about the living conditions and the couple’s parenting ability nearly a year before the incident when the boy left the home.
Aislynn Jenkins, a certified physicians’ assistant at Mon Valley Community Health Center, said the twin boy and girl weighed about 8 pounds and 7 pounds, respectively, when they were born in January 2006, which she described as robust and healthy. The children had post-natal checkups at 3 months, but 20 months passed before they again visited the health center, and they weighed only 22 pounds.
“They were below the lowest fifth percentile,” Jenkins testified. “They were off the chart. My main concern was (their) failure to thrive.”
Laboratory analysis of the children’s blood showed no systemic abnormalities, as did a consultation by an endocrinologist.
“I felt it was important that social services be involved with their life,” Jenkins told the jury. “I was concerned as to the lack of medical care, transportation and hygiene.”
She described Taylor and Buckholz as “incredulous” when she asked them to have a follow-up visit at Children’s Hospital, Pittsburgh, claiming that the twins’ small size ran in their families.
Glasgow said in opening arguments that he plans to put Taylor on the stand, which is expected to happen Monday.
Staff writer Barbara Miller contributed to this report.