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Police: Babysitter unaware 2 kids navigated rocky terrain, electric fence to swim in pond

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Savannah Lynn Peterson

A 19-year-old Manheim Township babysitter was unaware that the two young children she was supposed to be watching had walked more than 150 yards down rocky terrain — avoiding electrified fences along the way — so they could swim in a farmer's pond on Sunday, according to police.

Savannah Lynn Peterson, of the 5300 block of Blue Hill Road, is free on $5,000 unsecured bail, charged with two counts of first-degree misdemeanor child endangerment.

Peterson is a friend of the children's family, police said. She could not be reached for comment on Monday.

A neighbor, whose farm pond is 150 to 200 yards away from the home where Peterson and the children live, reported to Northern York County Regional Police shortly before noon on Sunday that two children were swimming in his pond, alone and unsupervised.

"He advised that he has seen these two children on his property swimming in his pond and running around on at least four other occasions that he could think of without supervision," charging documents state.

The neighbor told the children, who were clad in bathing suits, to go home, police said.

He then went to the children's home and told Peterson what had happened, "to which she simply responded that she ... did not know what to do anymore to keep them contained or get them to listen," documents state.

Difficult trip: Police said that to get to the pond, the children — ages 6 and 9 — made their way down a 45-degree grade with extremely rocky terrain. There are several sections of electric fencing on the land as well, for the neighbor's horses and other animals, according to police.

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Charging documents state that the pond is dark, making it difficult or impossible to see any dangers or obstructions underwater.

"In addition, the air temperature was about 55 degrees, which (the neighbor) advised would cause the water temperature to be even colder as (the pond is) fed by a natural spring" that's extremely cold, charging documents state.

In February, someone reported seeing the children running around naked in the middle of Blue Hill Road, according to documents, bolstering the claim that this "is not the first time these children have been left unattended to roam free as they please."

Officers went to the children's home and found Peterson, who told police the children are difficult to control, according to charging documents.

"She stated that she was not paying attention and did not see them leave the property," documents state, and admitted she was the one responsible for watching them while their grandfather was not at home.

Intoxicated? Charging documents allege Peterson appeared intoxicated while speaking with police — that her eyes were glassy and her pupils constricted, and that she had an injury consistent with picking at her skin.

Charging documents allege these are signs of narcotics intoxication, but she was not charged with any drug offenses.

The children's grandfather took custody of the children after he returned home, according to police.

Officers notified the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, police said.

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