Father pleads guilty to infant abuse

August 27, 2014
Bobby Jarond Sammons looks down as he is escorted from the Greene County Courthouse following his guilty plea and two-to-five-year sentence for the abuse of his 2-month old daughter. - Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – After entering a not guilty plea in December 2013 and then having his case scheduled for jury selection Sept. 4, the father charged with assaulting his infant daughter accepted a plea offer Wednesday that will send him to state prison for two to five years.

Bobby Jarond Sammons, 23, of 105 Ford St., Dilliner, pleaded guilty to charges of a parent or guardian endangering the welfare of children, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. A charge of aggravated assault was dropped in exchange for Sammons accepting the sentencing range of 2 to 5 years in a state penitentiary. He received credit for 296 days of time served.

The child was brought to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., July 31, 2013, with a femur fracture and 20 other fractures in various stages of healing, with some dating back to when she was just a few days old, according to doctors.

Testifying Wednesday, Sammons reiterated his claim that the fractured femur, which sent his then 2-month old daughter to the hospital, was the result of him accidently pushing his knee into her while reaching across her body to grab a diaper. This was the second version of events Sammons gave to police. In the first, he said he was in another room when he heard his daughter begin to cry. He said he thought one of the family’s large dogs jumped on her causing the injury.

Sammons said he never got angry with the child, but said he may have been irresponsible leaving her alone with the dogs.

Sammon’s former girlfriend, Ashley Cordwell, 19, the mother of the baby, faces charges of endangering the welfare of her child and reckless endangerment.

“Ashley, her mother, her sister or anyone else who was around my child, I can’t speak for them. I can only speak for myself,” Sammons said.

When asked by Greene County Judge Farley Toothman if the Commonwealth’s offer included any custody or visitation restrictions regarding the baby, Assistant District Attorney Brianna Vanatta said it did not.

“The Commonwealth has repeatedly attempted to impose restrictions on visitation and has been unsuccessful,” she said. “We attempted to enforce a no-contact provision and we have been unsuccessful.”

Vanatta said perhaps Greene County Children and Youth Services will have other options over the next five years of Sammon’s sentence. Court records indicate the district attorney’s office filed pre-trial motions in May, asking for the court to put a stay on court-ordered visitations with Sammons at Greene County jail throughout the duration of the criminal proceedings against him. It also asked for visits with Cordwell to be supervised by CYS.

According to the court record, Toothman initially issued an order of emergency protective custody in July 2013, after CYS requested it based upon the findings of the medical team at Ruby Memorial.

He then vacated the order citing “new information, alleged to be prejudicial to the parents, which came to the attention of a CYS Agency investigating official.” Toothman said there needed to be a “full hearing” to ensure Sammons and Cordwell had an opportunity to rebut what was being alleged against them. It was also to educate them of what was expected of them in regard to a goal of “reunification” with their daughter.

In October 2013, Toothman gave permission for visitation with the parents at least twice monthly. Two months later, it was increased to unsupervised visits for Cordwell, one day per week for two hours in her home.

This was later increased to five unsupervised visits per week, according to court documents.

Vanatta said the request made by the Commonwealth to restrict visitation was not intended to punish either parent.

“It was intended to protect (the baby). A 2-month-old baby can’t ask for a no-contact clause,” Vanatta said, noting this was common in cases involving adult victims.

The pre-trial motion further requested for the cases against Sammons and Cordwell to be joined as they related to the same incident and also asked for Toothman to recuse himself.

The argument for the recusal was based on Toothman’s ongoing involvement in the custody aspects of the case and a presumption by the approval of increased visitation of a bias toward Cordwell and Sammons, according to the pre-trial motion.

The visitation, joinder and recusal motions were all denied by Toothman.

Pennsylvania State Police officers were called to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., July 31, 2013, to investigate an alleged case of child abuse against the Sammon’s infant.

Dr. Jeffrey Lancaster showed police officers X-rays of the baby taken at Ruby Memorial following the baby’s birth there in May 2013. They then showed the officer X-rays when she was brought in with a broken right femur. Lancaster said there were no breaks in the first X-rays, but the new ones indicated four healing rib fractures on the left side, two healing rib fractures on the right and healing bones in her arm and wrist.

Dr. Michael Cunningham, a radiologist at the hospital, reported a finding of additional healing factures to the tibial bones on the right and left lower legs.

The doctors classified the injuries to the infant as “ongoing, nonaccidental trauma.”

The only other explanation Sammons gave for the injuries came from a one-time fall out of her car seat. He said he picked the car seat up after a blanket was thrown over it and did not realize the baby was not secured.

Sammons was ordered to be transferred to SCI-Pittsburgh for classification. However, prior to leaving the courthouse, his attorney, Harry Cancelmi, asked him if he wanted to attend a dependency hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday for his daughter. It is unknown if Sammons attended this hearing.

Jury selection in the case against Cordwell is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 4.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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