Magisterial District Judge David A. Plachko stated Thursday that the charges against the three adults before him represented "the most serious, disturbing and heart-wrenching" that he had seen in his 30-years on the bench when he denied them bail.
"There is no monetary amount or anything other than imprisonment that will ensure the safety of the victims," Plachko stated. "The safety of all the victims has to be paramount."
32-year-old Todd Richter II, his fiancée 27-year-old Jennifer Yost and her mother, 51-year-old Wendy Yost have been charged with child abuse spanning from March 2019 to March 2021. The abuse ended only after the eldest child, a 12-year-old boy identified only as BR, managed to escape on March 10.
"Fortunately, one of our residences saw this young man out pacing around back-and-forth, and although she's used to seeing children running around the streets, this child looked like he was in distress and she just asked him, 'Hey, buddy, do you need some help?'," Minersville Police Chief Michael Combs said.
Officers met with BR and soon thereafter, arrived at the residence where the boy had stated he and two other siblings had been beaten and confined to an attic.
Based on the boy's statements, officers investigated the residence and found a "strong odor of urine" in an upstairs storage area of the home. They also found an empty peanut butter jar which "smelled and had the appearance of urine," which the boy had stated they would often use in order to collect snow or water from a roof drain in order to have something to drink while they were confined.
The children, reported to be the biological children of Richter, were taken into protective custody and then placed into the care of Schuylkill County Children and Youth who in turn took them for medical treatment.
In addition to BR, an 11-year-old boy identified as DR, a 9-year-old girl identified as JR, and an unidentified 3-year-old were removed from the home. The 3-year-old, a daughter of Richter and Jennifer, was reportedly not subjected to abuse.
BR told medical personnel that "anything" could trigger the abuse and told his father "always threatened to kill him." He told of being hit with a wooden spatula, tree branch, belt, and mallet.
In addition to being thrown down steps, he alleged that Jennifer had stood on him and choked him saying, "she didn't care if she killed him because she would just hide his body."
The children all told that they would often go multiple days without being allowed to eat and that when they were permitted, it was only leftovers that were oftentimes moldy, and each told of physical abuse they had endured and witnessed.
"I've never seen anything like this in Minersville," Combs said. "We’ve had certainly cases of child abuse, child sexual exploitation and things like that, but that these children endured this many years of this kind of treatment is beyond anything that I’ve seen.”
"We're happy that those children are out of that situation."
A preliminary hearing was scheduled this morning at 9:30. At this time, court records have not been updated to show whether that hearing took place today or if it was rescheduled.
Richter faces 25 counts at this time consisting of multiple counts of aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, false imprisonment of a minor, endangering the welfare of children and harassment.
Jennifer has been charged with 37 counts which consist of aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, false imprisonment of a minor, endangering the welfare of children, harassment, unlawful restraint with risk of bodily injury, unlawful restraint with serious bodily injury and strangulation.
Wendy has been charged with 21 counts which consist of multiple counts of aggravated assault, strangulation, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, endangering the welfare of children, and harassment.
Their next court date is not known at this time.