Couple charged in baby death
Father asked neighbor to clean, remove boxes
The death of a 6-month-old baby in June has led to child endangerment and other charges against a Freedom Township couple.
Elizabeth Ann McIntyre, 29, and Robert Lee Zeth, 37, of Queen, were arraigned Monday on felony charges of conspiracy, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal use of a communication facility, along with misdemeanor counts of tampering with evidence and recklessly endangering another person, after an investigation by state police into the death of the couple’s 6-month-old son, Robert Vincent Zeth, on June 8.
According to charges filed by state police, the 6-month-old baby was unresponsive when the couple showed up at Conemaugh Nason Medical Center in Roaring Spring at 10 a.m. June 8. Despite efforts at the hospital to save the baby, the boy was pronounced dead at 10:25 a.m.
“I think I rolled on him,” McIntyre allegedly told state police investigators on July 29. “I didn’t know he was with us.”
State police allege the couple were living in a camper and sleeping in a small bed with the baby and their 3-year-old son.
According to the charges, state police pointed out that McIntyre told state police on June 8 — the day the baby died — that she put the child in a vibrating chair on the corner of the couple’s bed about 11 p.m. the night before. About 8:30 or 9 a.m., the baby woke up crying so she changed his diaper and fed him a bottle. The baby was then placed in the bed, in between McIntyre and Zeth. About an hour later McIntyre woke up and saw blood coming out of the baby’s nose.
McIntyre gave police a different account on July 29, court records reveal.
On July 29, McIntyre told investigators that the night of June 7, they were hanging out a neighbor’s garage and she was unsure what time they went to bed. About 2 or 3 a.m., the baby started crying and that Zeth gave him a bottle and put the baby in the bed between the two of them without her knowing it.
The 3-year-old was sleeping in front of her, against the wall, and had been watching a movie on the computer before going to bed, McIntyre told state police. She said she woke up and the 3-year-old was crawling around on the bed where he had been sleeping and her back was to the baby. She said she looked over her shoulder and saw blood coming out of the baby’s nose.
She said she knew something was wrong and screamed Zeth’s name. She said Zeth had his arm over the baby, around his hip and the baby’s blanket was off to the side. McIntyre said the baby’s head was on the pillow, a bit below her head. Mcintyre said she picked the baby up and ran outside to her neighbor’s home.
The neighbor told state police that about 10 a.m. she heard McIntyre crying and walked outside to see what was wrong. McIntyre was running toward her and handed her the baby. The neighbor said the baby was unresponsive and after Zeth and McIntyre got into their vehicle to leave for the hospital, the neighbor handed the baby back to McIntyre.
Zeth allegedly texted the neighbor later and told her to clean up their place and to take three boxes that were above the refrigerator out of the camper because state police and Blair County Children, Youth & Families caseworkers were headed there.
Police said the neighbor admitted to cleaning up the camper and taking the boxes from the camper. State police executed a search warrant on the camper and noted the bed was made and that it was suspicious given McIntyre said they woke up and immediately left with the baby to go to the hospital.
The neighbor told state police she thought there were drugs or “bad stuff” in the boxes, but never looked in them or took anything out of them, before she handed them over to her husband. The husband then put the boxes in his truck. State police noted it is not known if any items were taken out of the boxes before they were put in the truck.
McIntyre and Zeth initially gave their address as Queen, but state police learned they were living, along with the baby and their 3-year-old son, in a camper on a property at 861 Tuscarora Drive in Freedom Township. Police noted the couple claimed the camper was a “weekend getaway,” but investigators said they had actually been living in the camper for six weeks and had never lived at the Queen address.
State police said the camper was located on a property that is considered a junkyard and there were numerous “vehicles, tools, toys, furniture, scrap metals, car parts, scrap woods and miscellaneous items scattered around the property,” Trooper Eric Glunt wrote in the charges. He added, “The inside of the camper contained miscellaneous items, which were so abundant that the bunk beds in the camper could not be used and there was not a functional shower.”
State police said a dog was also living in the camper with the family.
Magisterial District Judge Andrew Blattenberger set bail for Zeth at 10 percent of $50,000 while McIntyre’s bail is 10 percent of $20,000. Both were lodged in Blair County Prison with a preliminary hearing slated for Aug. 29 in Martinsburg District Court.