UNIONTOWN – A Point Marion man was sentenced to death by a Fayette County jury Wednesday in the brutal beating death of 4-year old Trenton Lewis St. Clair in 2011. St. Clair would have turned 7 Feb. 17.
Patrick Haney, Jr., 30, was found guilty Tuesday of criminal homicide in the death of St. Clair, whose mother, Heather Louise Forsythe, 30, formerly of Carmichaels testified against him. Forsythe, who was Haney’s live-in girlfriend at the time, pleaded guilty last week to endangering the welfare of a child. A charge of criminal homicide against her was previously dropped. In exchange for her testimony against Haney, a sentence of 2 ½ to 5 years in prison was recommended for Forsythe by the Fayette County District Attorney’s office.
Defense attorney Nicholas Timperio initially sought dismissal of charges against Forsythe. He said there was no evidence Forsythe was responsible for her son’s death. But Assistant District Attorney Linda Cordaro maintained Forsythe knew what happened to St. Clair, which was evident in statements she made to police.
Forsythe told police Haney was abusing her son for several days leading up to his death. On Sept. 13, 2011, Forsythe was out of the residence she shared with Haney. She had left St. Clair alone there with Haney , who watched St. Clair during her absence.
Forsythe told police she returned home and heard what she characterized as a “ruckus” in an upstairs room, where she found Haney standing over her son. She said she tried to stop Haney, who was slapping and hitting the child, but ended up in an altercation with Haney herself.
Forsythe said she wanted to call for help but Haney stopped her, claiming she overreacted.
Later that day, St. Clair was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., where he died of his injuries. An emergency room physician who testified at Haney’s pretrial hearing in October 2012 said this was “one of the worst, if not the worst, abuse cases” she had ever seen.
An autopsy report listed the cause of death as peritonitis from an abdominal injury caused by battering. St. Clair also had injuries to his eyes, neck, chin, jaw, arms and legs.
Police said Haney admitted hitting St. Clair in the back of the head and in the face as a form of discipline.
Shortly after his death, St. Clair’s grandmother, Sharon Smitley, started a Facebook page in her grandson’s memory, Take a Stand Against Child Abuse in Honor of Trenton St. Clair.
“Child abuse has become an epidemic in which we must get off of our hands, and stand up and fight against. We must give these children a voice!!! We must take action before it is too late, and another child lives in fear, and dies in fear,” Smitley posted. “We, as human beings must say enough!! We have had enough of the abuse towards our children and make the laws as strict as possible so no one gets away with murdering a child.”