Judge denies request to reopen case

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Attempts to reopen a child sexual abuse case just days before the man convicted of multiple offenses is to be sentenced were rejected Tuesday by Blair County Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle.

Philip Reid McCready, 36, of Altoona was found guilty by a jury in January on 16 charges, including three counts of rape of a child and four counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

He will be sentenced by Doyle Tuesday, and he could receive 25 years or more for acts he committed against a young girl when she was between ages 5 and 8.

While McCready denied his guilt, it took the jury just 45 minutes to convict him of the offenses.

The young girl was sexually abused by McCready over a period of three summers when he periodically visited her Duncansville area neighborhood.

The youngster first revealed the abuse to a young friend who told her parents.

Allegheny Township police and Blair County Children Youth and Families followed up on the complaints.

A key to McCready’s conviction was a 41-minute tape of an interview the young girl had with a highly trained interviewer at a child advocacy center in Harrisburg.

During the trial, the youngster identified McCready as her assailant.

With McCready’s sentencing only a few days away, his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ed Ferguson, filed a petition essentially asking Doyle to reopen the investigation.

According to Ferguson, McCready’s mother has been able to identify another suspect in the case, a man who recently committed suicide just before he was to be interviewed by a Altoona police concerning alleged child sexual abuse.

Ferguson said until McCready’s mother came forward with the information, he had no idea of the man’s close relationship to the victim in the McCready case.

Ferguson wanted next week’s sentencing postponed so that he and a court-appointed investigator could look into the possibility that man who committed suicide was the person who raped and abused the girl, now 11 years old.

Doyle said after-discovered evidence – new facts that come to light after a person has been convicted of a crime – cannot be “cumulative” evidence or facts that simply support a defense theory that had been rejected by the jury.

It also cannot attack the credibility of the victim – another question already resolved by the jury, and the new evidence, if true, must be powerful enough that it could lead to a different verdict from the jury.

Doyle found that Ferguson’s possible after-discovered evidence was primarily an attack on the credibility of the child witness, who Doyle stated, was “unshakable” on the witness stand in her identification of McCready as her assailant.

The judge also did not think that, even if there was a possible second abuser who spent time with the girl, it would change the outcome of the trial because of the youngster’s strong identification of McCready.

Assistant District Attorney Ilissa Zimmerman stated the possibility of another perpetrator was being raised by McCready’s mother and new evidence was based on hearsay.

Doyle agreed with those points.

Ferguson asked the judge for an investigator, which was denied, as was his request for the girl to view a photo line-up that included the man who committed suicide to determine if she might name him as the assailant.

The judge rejected requests by Ferguson to have access to the Altoona police investigation of the dead man and to children and youth records involving the removal of his children years ago.

Ferguson had argued, “We must seek out this information in the interest of justice,” but Doyle said she didn’t want to cause the child additional “mental pain and anguish.”

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.