HOLLIDAYSBURG - After Tabatha and Patrick Partsch of Claysburg received lengthy prison sentences on Friday afternoon for abusing at least five children in various ways, Blair County Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard called the case "sad, disgusting, degenerate," and still said she was at a loss for words.
Tabatha Partsch, 40, was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison, to be followed by 15 years' probation, and Patrick Partsch, 34, will be behind bars for eight to 28 years.
Tabatha Partsch pleaded guilty to 37 charges.
Patrick Partsch entered no-contest pleas to 18 charges. But in the eyes of Judge Daniel J. Milliron, Patrick Partsch was no less responsible for what happened to the children who visited his home in 2011 and 2012 than his wife.
It was a ritual of abuse - sexual, physical and emotional - explained Bernard as the three-hour hearing concluded.
At least two of the children were raped by the couple. They were subjected to indecent assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. The children, under 13 years of age, were given alcohol and cigarettes, shown pornographic material and were photographed.
The children were physically roughed up if they objected to what was happening, according to the charges.
One of the children, now 13, said he was starved, and at another point, he said he was forced to eat a sandwich on which Patrick Partsch had urinated.
The Partsches were charged with endangering the welfare of children and corrupting the morals of minors, among other offenses.
Bernard said that bringing the couple into court and allowing two of the victims to tell the judge the impact of the abuse on their lives hopefully will help, but she said the law can go only so far in restoring the lives of these victims.
There is no restitution that can be paid by the perpetrators that will bring relief anytime soon to the young victims, Bernard explained.
It's going to take years of effort by the boys who were abused and their families to bring about healing, she said.
"I'm proud of representing them [the victims] in this case," Bernard said in trying to express how strongly she felt.
She hopes the Pennsylvania Board of Parole and Probation will keep the couple behind bars well beyond their minimum sentences. Tabatha and Patrick Partsch, when asked if they wanted to speak, declined.
The only reaction from Patrick Partsch during the sentencing came when a young boy, testifying by videoconference from Wisconsin where he lives with his father and the father's girlfriend, talked about the sandwich incident. Patrick shook his head indicating his dissent to the boy's statement.
Neither Assistant Public Defender Julia Burke, representing Tabatha Partsch, nor attorney Douglas Keating, for Patrick Partsch, offered comments. The investigation into the Claysburg family was initiated by Greenfield Township police in September 2011 when a mother reported her 14-year-old son had been in the Partsch home, and he reported that the Partsches had taken a child into their bedroom and locked the door. He suspected abuse. Police referred the incident to Blair County Children, Youth & Families.
Five months later, a mother discovered text messages involving her son and sexual incidents, watching pornographic movies and pictures taken of him by Tabatha Partsch. Police interviewed the 12-year-old and then were in communication with child welfare authorities in Wisconsin where two brothers lived.
The boys had visited the Partsch home, and Wisconsin authorities were able to provide police with information about the abuse the boys suffered while in Pennsylvania.
Tabatha Partsch was arrested first, then a couple of weeks later, charges were filed against Patrick Partsch. Both have been housed in the Blair County Prison for more than a year.
The father of the two young Wisconsin boys told the judge, "I just want to say my kids have suffered great abuse. They are suffering really bad. They are suffering a lot of trauma."
His youngest son has nightmares, and the father said little things unexpectedly trigger rage in the youngster. He gave an example. The younger boy was drinking juice one day and, suddenly, he began punching himself. His older son doesn't talk much.
"He's afraid people know about this," said the dad.
The boy, now 15, suffers from post traumatic stress, and the father said of his two sons, "It's the memories that never go away for them."
"I hope they [the Partsches] get what they deserve," he told Milliron.
The older boy said he has trouble with relationships, even with his younger brother, because "it reminds me of what happened in Pennsylvania."
The younger boy gave a detailed statement of the abuse that had people in tears.
"I hurt badly," the 13-year-old said.
He asked that Tabatha Partsch spend her life in jail.
"She should have lifelong punishment like I have," the boy said.
The father's girlfriend told the judge she is working "extra hard to teach the boys to love and hug" once again.