BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ) — A Hollidaysburg couple is behind bars for alleged aggravated assault and endangerment of an infant.
Ethan Laborde, 18, and Sarah Strayer, 18, have been charged after police were called to Nason Hospital for reports of multiple bruises and injuries to a three-and-a-half-month-old girl.
On July 4, a woman noticed the bruise marks on the infant after the child was dropped off in her care by Laborde, according to the criminal complaint. The woman contacted other relatives of the child to note what she had seen.
During an interview with police, the woman told police she texted Laborde letting him know to take his time coming back, according to the criminal complaint. At this point, Laborde responded by asking “ok how is her head?” The woman asked Laborde what happened but he said he didn’t know.
Relatives of the child met with Laborde, Strayer and the infant in East Freedom so they could decide what to do, before ultimately deciding to take the infant to the hospital, according to the criminal complaint.
On July 5, two relatives were interviewed by police and questioned if they had seen bruises or marks in the past on the infant. One man said he saw a small scab on her face at church on July 3 and bruises on the infant’s left side of her forehead near her eye. The man said Laborde told him he was holding the infant in a “frog-like” position. While doing so, the infant reportedly pushed her legs out causing her to fall from Laborde’s arm and onto a changing table, according to the criminal complaint.
Later on July 5, a children’s doctor provided an update on all injuries the infant had sustained. These included bruises all over her body. The infant had four healing rib fractures on her left side, a torn upper frenulum, (tissue connecting the upper gum and lip) and two separate lacerations in the vagina area that required surgery. According to the criminal complaint, the doctor stated the infant could not have caused the injuries by herself.
On July 7, police spoke with Laborde at UPMC Children’s Hospital about the infant’s injuries. Laborde told police a lot of the face injuries come from “tummy time” where the infant lays on her tummy, but often hits her head and face on the floor. Laborde also told police approximately two to three weeks earlier the infant was hit in the face with an empty garbage can after she bumped into a dresser and knocked it over, according to the criminal complaint.
Police told Laborde that based on the doctor’s findings, those incidents would not have caused significant injuries to the infant. Laborde then told police of five instances that might have caused those injuries, according to the criminal complaint.
Laborde reportedly told police he first smacked the infant’s hand when she was two weeks old to stop her from grabbing his shirt and face, according to the criminal complaint. During the time, Strayer was not around but Laborde said he told her a week later. Laborde reportedly told police that Strayer told him if he ever did something like that again that she wouldn’t trust him alone with the child.
In another instance, when the girl was approximately two months old, Laborde told police he and Strayer were arguing and the infant was fussing. So, he picked her up and squeezed her tightly so she would not fall. At one point, Laborde said the infant made a grunting sound and her body went limp, according to the criminal complaint. The next day, Laborde said he noticed bruises on the left side, near her ribs. Laborde reportedly told police this is when her ribs were broken.
Laborde explained what might have caused damage to the infant’s upper frenulum. While attempting to feed the infant, Laborde told police she would not take the bottle, so he got flustered and shoved it into her mouth with force. Laborde believed there was a chip in the lid of the bottle that cut her, causing the injury, according to court documents.
Laborde also told police how he believed the infant’s vagina area was injured. Approximately two weeks prior he, Strayer and the infant were at dinner when the infant had a “major blowout” and might have cut the infant with his fingernails while wiping her clean, according to the criminal complaint.
The most recent incident happened July 4, according to court documents. Laborde told police that he learned Strayer had romantic feelings for a mutual friend of theirs and wanted to end things. This upset Laborde and on the way to taking the infant to the relative’s home, he reportedly struck the right side of her head with a partially closed fist. According to the criminal complaint, Laborde said his knuckles hit her head and slide down her cheek area.
On July 12, police spoke with the doctor that examined the infant days prior. The doctor believed Laborde’s admission for the rib fracture and punch to the head coincides with the injuries reported. The doctor also mostly agreed with Laborde’s admission to the torn upper frenulum but said the injury was not caused by a chip in the bottle, but just by the force of him shoving the bottle into the infant’s mouth, according to court documents.
The doctor however disagreed with Laborde’s story regarding the injury around her private area and other minor injuries. According to the criminal complaint, the doctor stated surgical reconstruction caused by those injuries is extremely rare in infants and matches those a woman has after having a child. The doctor said a fingernail could not have caused the damage done to the skin tissue the infant had, according to the criminal complaint.
The doctor concluded, based on external visible injuries to the child, any caretaker of the infant should have been alarmed and disturbed by these injuries and sought medical treatment, according to the criminal complaint.
In an interview with police, Strayer explained her relationship with Laborde was rocky, with a lot of arguing and bickering back and forth. Strayer reported to police they often argued about how Laborde was a “little rough” with the infant. Strayer said she tells Laborde to be easier with the infant, but that makes him more frustrated, according to the criminal complaint.
Strayer also reported to police instances where Laborde may have mistreated the infant, including how he “flops” the infant into her car seat and into the bed. According to the criminal complaint, Strayer noticed that anytime the infant was alone with Laborde there would be marks or a bruise. She reported to police she couldn’t believe he’d be doing that. When she would ask him, he would just tell her he didn’t know, according to court documents.
Strayer reported to police that she does her best to not leave Laborde alone with the infant. She also said although she had prior suspicions of abuse before, she didn’t do anything “because I loved him,” according to the criminal complaint.
Laborde was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, aggravated assault and aggravated assault of a victim under 13, aggravated indecent assault of a child and recklessly endangering another person. He’s being held in the Blair County Prison after failing to post $400,000 bail.
Strayer was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person. She is also being held at the Blair County Prison after failing to post $100,000 bail.
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Laborde and Strayer are set to have their preliminary hearing on Aug. 16.