Police: Slain York County child-beater found with hands bound

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A convicted York County child-beater was found dead in his state prison cell, under his bed, with his hands tied behind his back and a sheet around his neck, according to state police.

Joshua Steven Perry, 25, formerly of the Dillsburg area, died of apparent blunt-force trauma to the head and neck, along with a broken neck, according to charging documents.

He also suffered "significant trauma" to his head and upper torso, documents state.

Joshua Steven Perry

Perry allegedly was killed by his SCI Somerset cellmate, 25-year-old Dale Michael Wakefield, state police said.

Charging documents state that Wakefield was the only person who had access to Perry inside the cell during the time Perry was killed.

The men shared cell 18A in the state prison's restricted housing unit, according to police. SCI Somerset is located in Somerset County.

About 11:10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, prison staff found Wakefield facing the door of his cell.

Charging documents allege Wakefield made statements asking for a prison lieutenant and someone from the prison's psychiatric unit, then said, "My cellie is under the bed, and my attorney info is in my address book."

Facedown, under bed: Perry was found facedown under his bed, hands tied behind his back, with a sheet around his neck, documents state.

Medical staff was called in, and two nurses determined Perry was deceased.

Video surveillance determined Perry left his cell about 1:42 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, to use the prison law library and is seen on video returning to his cell about 4:07 p.m. the same day, according to state police.

SCI Somerset inmate Dale Wakefield is accusing of killing his cellmate, Joshua Steven Perry of York County in January 2018.

No one went in or out of the prison cell between that time and when prison staff found Perry's body about 11:12 a.m. Tuesday, charging documents state.

"It should be noted that the victim's injuries could not have been self-inflicted and the only person who had direct access to the victim during this time was the accused," documents state.

Already serving life: Wakefield, formerly of Doylestown, Bucks County, is already serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Bucks County Court in June 2014, according to court records. He is sometimes known as "Bugsy," according to court records.

On the same day, Wakefield pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a separate Bucks County case for which he had been charged with attempted first-degree murder.

Wakefield pleaded guilty to assault by prisoner and aggravated assault and was sentenced to 10½ to 30 years, court records state.

More:York County child-beater found dead in state prison cell

Al Joseph, SCI Somerset's public-information officer, said standard protocol when an inmate dies "under these type of circumstances" is for prison officials to reach out to the family of the inmate to offer condolences, to work with state police and the Somerset County District Attorney's Office to bring the case to a "successful legal resolution" and to conduct an internal review to determine if changes needed to be made to prison procedures.

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.

Joshua Steven Perry

The toddler suffered brain bleeding, 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.

Killed homeless vet: Wakefield is serving a life sentence for murdering a 71-year-old homeless veteran in Bucks County, according to WFMZ-TV.

Wakefield was out drinking and bar-hopping to celebrate his 21st birthday, and stabbed the homeless man more than 70 times in Doylestown, according to WFMZ's report.

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