Bail revoked for 'House of Horrors' defendant
Charles M. Benjamin, the man charged in the West York “House of Horrors” child abuse case, had his bail revoked Friday after prosecutors said he had contact with his co-defendant, a violation of the terms of his release.
At a hearing Friday, Teresa Jauregui, a deputy prosecutor for the York County District Attorney’s Office, showed surveillance video of Benjamin loitering outside the county’s adult probation office and then entering the office while 26-year-old Janay Fountain, his co-defendant, was inside.
Fountain and Benjamin crossed paths at the judicial center by chance, but surveillance video showed that instead of ignoring Fountain and continuing on his way out of the judicial center, Benjamin returned to the probation office to talk to Fountain.
“I don’t see what else we need to prove,” said Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness. “We’ve got it on video.”
Amy Doll, a probation officer who was supervising Benjamin during his release, testified that on the morning of Sept. 4, she had a routine meeting with Benjamin at the adult probation office in the York County Judicial Center.
During the meeting, Benjamin mentioned Fountain several times and said he was worried she'd "turned state's evidence" on him. He also wanted to know when she would be released from York County Prison, Doll said.
Benjamin, 72, had been released on $250,000 bail before he was arrested on Sept. 20 for the bail violation.
He's charged with five felony counts each of aggravated assault and child endangerment and one felony count of false imprisonment. He's also charged with five misdemeanor counts each of simple assault and reckless endangerment.
Police say Benjamin would lock five of his seven young children in a room without food or access to a restroom for hours at a time. He also beat them, police allege.
Fountain, Benjamin's girlfriend and the children's mother, is charged with multiple felony counts of endangering the welfare of children.
The defendant was warned: Doll testified that she told Benjamin multiple times during their meeting that he was not allowed to have any contact with Fountain per the terms of his release.
Benjamin left the probation office at 11:03 a.m., according to surveillance video, and two minutes later at 11:05 a.m., Fountain and her case manager, Kyle Eyler, could be seen on video walking toward the entrance to the probation office and going inside.
Fountain had been released from York County Prison on recognizance bail earlier that morning. She didn't have an appointment but needed to go to the adult probation office with Eyler to get the necessary paperwork for her supervised release, Doll testified.
Surveillance video showed Benjamin loitering in the hallway while Fountain and Eyler were in the probation office, at one point hiding behind a wall and then pacing back and forth in front of the office entrance.
Eyler said he briefly left Fountain in the waiting room to go to the restroom, and when he returned, he saw Benjamin speaking to Fountain.
Defense pushes back: Benjamin's defense attorney, Clarence Allen, asked both Eyler and Doll during cross examination if they could testify that Benjamin made any threats to Fountain and whether they were concerned for Fountain's safety because of Benjamin's contact with her.
Neither Eyler nor Doll testified that they heard Benjamin threaten Fountain, nor that they had reason to believe Fountain was in danger.
But Judge Ness said that wasn't the point.
The petition from the commonwealth to revoke Benjamin's bail was that Benjamin violated his bail conditions by having contact with Fountain, not that Benjamin threatened Fountain, Judge Ness said.
The judge also said it was clear that Benjamin violated the conditions of his bail by initiating contact with Fountain when he returned to the probation office after his own appointment was over.
"He saw her and he was going to push the issue," Judge Ness said. "(He) shouldn't have done it."
Benjamin's pretrial conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the York County Judicial Center.