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Child rapist gets 40 years

Crutcher pleads guilty to 2019 kidnapping, rape of Altoona toddler

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A convicted sex offender will spend 40 years to life in prison after pleading guilty Friday to the 2019 kidnapping and rape of a 15-month-old Altoona toddler.

Ferdy A. Crutcher, 46, scheduled for trial starting Oct. 26, told Blair County Judge Wade A. Kagarise that he was rendering guilty pleas to all charges — including attempted homicide, aggravated assault and aggravated indecent assault — because he is guilty.

“Mr. Crutcher firmly did not want to go in front of a jury in this case,” defense attorney Ted Krol told the judge. “I feel he’s doing this to avoid trial and to get into the state prison system as soon as possible.”

“We fully expect him to stay in jail for the rest of his life,” District Attorney Pete Weeks said after Kagarise imposed the recommended sentence.

At a minimum, Crutcher will remain incarcerated until he’s about 86 years old.

Weeks described Crutcher’s case as a prime example of how prior sentencing guidelines failed to protect society and stop Crutcher from reoffending.

Crutcher was in jail for more than two decades, from 1993 to 2014, in connection with the 1992 rape of a 17-month-old Johnstown girl and an unrelated indecent assault charge.

After serving maximum sentences for those crimes, he was released from prison and living on the 1900 block of 14th Avenue, Altoona, on Aug. 11, 2019, when family members reported a toddler missing from an apartment building on Lexington Avenue.

A family member found the injured child in an alley near the KNY Family Fitness Center, naked from the waist down with his diaper discarded next to him.

After being transported to UPMC Altoona, the child was flown to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for treatment of what doctors described as “near fatal” and penetrating injuries.

During Crutcher’s preliminary hearing, Altoona police Detective Sgt. Terry Merritts testified that DNA recovered from the diaper matched Crutcher’s DNA, already on file in a national database based on his convictions in Cambria County.

Merritts also interviewed Crutcher who initially said he took the boy for a walk about 3:30 a.m. at the behest of the toddler’s grandmother, then abandoned him out of fear of being seen with the boy.

Merritts said Crutcher also claimed to have seen the boy in the apartment, with injuries from being beaten but walking around. Merritts said Crutcher also accused the grandmother of planting his DNA at the crime scene so he would be sent back to prison because of his status as a sex offender.

No family members of the boy were in court Friday when Crutcher rendered his plea in exchange for the sentence.

First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith said the child has improved. But his injuries, she said, could affect his future development and create a very long road for recovery.

“It was by divine intervention that this child was found,” Smith said.

Weeks credited the Altoona Police Department, the county’s Children, Youth & Families office and the state police Crime Lab, which did the DNA analysis, for their efforts in bringing Crutcher to justice.

“At a time when activists are calling to defund and downsize police departments, this case illustrates the importance of an investigation that required more than a full shift from the Altoona Police Department, including four supervisors, to secure and investigate four separate crime scenes while also interviewing witnesses,” he said.

Kagarise advised Crutcher that based on the pleas he rendered Friday, he will be evaluated by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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