York County child-beater found dead in state prison cell

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Joshua Steven Perry

A York County man serving years in prison for badly beating his former girlfriend's toddler was found dead his SCI Somerset prison cell.

Joshua Steven Perry, 25, formerly of the Dillsburg area, was found unconscious in a cell in the prison's restricted housing unit about 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, according to a news release from Susan McNaughton, press secretary for the state Department of Corrections.

"Facility medical staff were called ... and two registered nurses confirmed the inmate's death," McNaughton wrote.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller declined to say whether Perry's death is considered suspicious.

Miller also said he was not yet sure when an autopsy would be scheduled, then referred all questions to state police.

The state police spokesman for Somerset County could not be reached on Tuesday afternoon, and his voicemail does not take messages.

McNaughton did not return a message seeking comment.

Her news release confirmed that state police are investigating, as are members of the state Department of Corrections and SCI Somerset's security staff. SCI Somerset spokesman Al Joseph could not be reached for comment.

The background: Perry was sentenced in October 2015 to 5½ to 11 years in state prison for badly beating his then-girlfriend's 18-month-old son.

The boy has lasting injuries, senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy said at sentencing.

"It's going to take years for (medical professionals) to know what damage was actually done," Murphy has said, adding that while it's clear the boy has brain damage, the extent of that damage remained unknown at the time of Perry's sentencing.

The boy's family said he goes to physical therapy five days a week, and that on two of those days he goes twice a day, Murphy said.

The toddler suffered a subdural hematoma, and subsequent brain swelling caused some paralysis at the time, according to Murphy, who said the boy still had restricted movement on his left side in fall 2015.

Court documents indicate the boy was taken to Holy Spirit Hospital in October 2014, then transported to Hershey Medical Center in critical condition.

On respirator: He was having intense seizures and needed to be heavily sedated and put on a respirator, Northern York County Regional Police have said.

Perry was alone with the tot for about nine hours when the injuries were inflicted, according to Murphy.

Medical staff also noted bruises and bite marks on the child that appeared a week earlier, again while Perry was watching the boy, according to charging documents filed by Northern Regional Detective Bill Haller.

"Perry advised (that the boy) must have bitten himself," Haller wrote in those documents.

'Whiplash movement': Perry also said the toddler must have suffered the other injuries falling out of his crib, police said.

But one of the tot's doctors testified at trial that the injuries were caused "from some type of whiplash movement where the head was rotated violently in a back and forth movement or from an impact of the head where the brain continued in motion, or a combination of the two," court documents state.

A jury in September 2015 took a little more than two hours to convict Perry of aggravated assault and child endangerment.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

— Editor's note: This article was posted earlier with an incorrect photo. The article has been updated with the correct image.