HOLLIDAYSBURG - A Blair County judge spoke out Thursday in favor of a child advocacy center for central Pennsylvania while holding a status conference in a child sexual abuse case that involves multiple young victims.
"I've never seen a better case for a child resource center," said Judge Daniel J. Milliron as he discussed the charges against Tabatha A. Partsch, 39, and her husband, Patrick, 33, of Claysburg.
The Partsches are charged with sexually abusing four children while also showing pornography to several others, Blair County Assistant District Attorney Daniel Kiss said. They have entered not guilty pleas.
The case would likely be tried in May because there are several lengthy trials scheduled for early 2013, including drug cases in the "Operation Last Call" prosecutions, Milliron said.
The alleged abuse occurred in the second half of 2011, and the victims, who range in age from 5 to 13, live either locally or in Milwaukee, Kiss explained.
The investigation against the Partsches has involved witnesses and records in Wisconsin and Blair and Cambria counties.
Several Blair County officials, including Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard and the director of Blair County Children, Youth & Families, Maryanne Burger, have recently advocated the development of a child advocacy center for Blair and surrounding counties.
Centre County officials, on the heels of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case, have also publicly favored an child advocacy center where a suspected child abuse victim could be taken for an interview by experts, and also be examined medically and receive treatment, if necessary.
The child victims are able to avoid multiple interviews with child welfare, police, the prosecutor and medical authorities and travel to multiple medical facilities.
The facility would likely be associated with a hospital.
While there are 21 such facilities in Pennsylvania, central Pennsylvania has no center to serve it, and the children are being taken to centers in Pittsburgh, Danville or Harrisburg for services, Burger said.
"I see many more [child abuse] cases now. We have to have a more centralized approach," Milliron said.
He suggested in court that some of the "Sandusky money," the $60 million Penn State must pay as a NCAA fine, should be used to fund a central Pennsylvania child advocacy center.
Planning for a local facility is on hold because of a lack of funding, Burger said. Burger has included a request for some funds to explore the need for a child advocacy center in her latest budget proposal to the state, which provides the funding for Children, Youth & Families.
The Partsches' case came to the forefront last summer when several children told their stories of alleged abuse to Greenfield Township Sgt. Matthew Lindsey.
Milliron set several deadlines, stating that the prosecution must give the defense information about the case and the investigation within 30 days. The judge told the prosecution to present proposed plea agreements to the couple by Feb. 1.
The Partsches attended the status conference, both sitting in the jury box while the attorneys and judge talked about the case. The two mouthed words to each other and used facial expressions to communicate.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.