Convicted child abuser on trial again, says daughter hurt son
The prosecution's first witness in the child-abuse trial of a Fairview Township man previously convicted of shaking his baby was the man's wife. But by the time Lisa Moore finished testifying, it was clear she was a better witness for the defense.
Peter J. Moore's trial began with opening statements Tuesday morning from deputy prosecutor Stephen McDonald, who told jurors the defendant was watching the couple's 14-month-old son and 5-year-old daughter in the family home while Lisa Moore went grocery shopping on March 8, 2014.
Lisa Moore returned home about 90 minutes later. She eventually realized something was wrong with the boy, and she and her husband took him to Hershey Medical Center, the prosecutor said.
There, doctors determined "the bones in (her son's) legs had been broken in four places," according to McDonald, who said the lower-leg bones in both legs suffered fractures.
Hospital staff became suspicious because Peter Moore's version of how the boy got hurt didn't jibe with the injuries they saw, the prosecutor said. A doctor with extensive experience in diagnosing child abuse ended up determining the injuries weren't accidental, and police were notified, McDonald said.
Heard commotion: Moore told hospital staff, and later Fairview Township Police, that his kids were playing on the living room floor when he heard a commotion and saw his son lying on his back, with his stepdaughter lying on top of him, McDonald said. Moore maintains the girl must have injured his son and said he didn't initially realize anything was seriously amiss.
McDonald told jurors that hospital staff determined there was so much force involved in causing the fractures that the 5-year-old simply could not be responsible.
Fairview Township Detective Jarrett Boyles has said the breaks were considered drop fractures, which can happen when a child falls from a significant height and lands on his feet or when a child is slammed to the ground feet-first by an adult. The toddler is doing fine now, according to the detective.
"This is the second time a child left in the defendant's care (suffered) serious injuries," he said. The prosecutor called Moore's earlier conviction and current charges "a distinct pattern of events" because in both cases he was the only adult home and in both cases he claimed the injuries were accidental.
In January 2004, Peter Moore pleaded no contest to attempted homicide and guilty to aggravated assault and related offenses for shaking his 3-month-old son in 2003, court records state. He was sentenced to six to 12 years in state prison.
Rush to judgment? But defense attorney Joseph Caraciolo told jurors his client's prior conviction caused a rush to judgment.
He argued that because Peter Moore is a convicted child abuser, police "started ignoring all the evidence" in the case and did "very little investigation." Fairview Township Police investigated both the 2003 and 2014 cases.
Caraciolo said it's Lisa Moore's autistic daughter — Peter Moore's stepdaughter — who inadvertently injured her little brother, although McDonald told jurors the defense would try to convince them the girl did everything "except spin her head around and spit green pea soup at you."
After opening statements, McDonald called Lisa Moore to the witness stand.
Explosive disorder: She cried sporadically during her testimony, telling jurors her daughter suffers from autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD and intermittent explosive disorder.
"From an early age, we knew something was wrong," she said.
Lisa Moore said her daughter has been admitted to psychiatric facilities four times, once for two months. There also was a fifth partial hospitalization, the mother said.
She testified the girl has been violent toward herself, her baby brother and others, including her mother. Lisa Moore told jurors her daughter once broke her nose.
"When she's angry, she's extremely strong," Lisa Moore said, adding the girl has hit her brother, pushed him off furniture and thrown things at him. The girl's issues are so severe that there are therapeutic support staff members and behavior specialist consultants who come to the Moore home at this point for 15 hours a week, while others handle the girl's needs at school for an additional 15 hours per week.
"She's actually punched a hole through her bedroom door," the mother said. "There were points where I was scared of her."
Videos shown: Caraciolo played two iPhone videos of the girl, taken by Lisa Moore, in which the girl screams and shrieks while hitting and kicking her mother. Both videos were taken after Peter Moore was charged in 2014.
In the first video, Lisa Moore can be heard continually trying to calm the girl.
"Baby please stop — please," Lisa Moore begged. "I love you so much. Please stop."
In the second video, she told her daughter, "I can't take too many more hits in the head."
Lisa Moore told jurors her husband is laid back, easygoing and calm.
"He wasn't a good father. He was an exceptional father," she said. "They adored him."
Peter Moore, 41, is free on bail, charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment. Trial is set to resume Wednesday morning with more testimony.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.