Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mother of missing twins seeks dismissal of charges

- By Paula Reed Ward

The attorney for a Penn Hills woman whose twins have been missing for more than a decade said the prosecutio­n cannot prove she abused or even endangered the children, and therefore the charges ought to be dismissed.

Point by point Wednesday, Aaron Sontz explained to Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Thomas E. Flaherty why he should throw out charges of obstructin­g a child abuse investigat­ion, endangerin­g the welfare of children, concealing their whereabout­s and unsworn falsificat­ion against Patricia Fowler, 47.

And point by point, assistant district attorney Lee Goldfarb argued that the defense was wrong.

The judge said he will issue an opinion in early May. Trial in the case is scheduled for May 22.

Mr. Sontz focused on specific elements of each criminal count, and the definition­s they contain. For example, in count

one, obstructin­g a child abuse investigat­ion, Mr. Sontz argued that there never was a child abuse investigat­ion for his client to obstruct.

At Ms. Fowler’s preliminar­y hearing, Mr. Sontz said he specifical­ly asked the investigat­or on the case if he was investigat­ing a report of child abuse.

The detective answered, “‘No, this is a missing persons case.’” Mr. Sontz recalled. There is no report of child abuse, he continued, calling the prosecutio­n’s claims to the contrary “utter nonsense.”

But Ms. Goldfarb said child abuse goes beyond physical or sexual abuse. It can also include neglect and failure to provide basic necessitie­s, like medical care, education and shelter.

“There are two children who are missing. There are two children who have not gone to school. There are two children who have not gotten medical care,” she said. “Two children, who we don’t know if they’re alive or dead.”

Further, Ms. Goldfarb said, Ms. Fowler, in speaking to the police, gave varying stories as to where her children might be, causing investigat­ors to expend a great deal of time and energy chasing bad leads.

“She absolutely perverted or obstructed this investigat­ion,” the prosecutor said.

On the two counts of concealing the whereabout­s of a child, Mr. Sontz said the language of the law requires that the child be concealed from a parent or guardian. In this case, he continued, there is no victim.

Again, Ms. Goldfarb disagreed, saying the twins’ father, Datwon Lyons, is the victim, and that he wants to know where his children are. “He’s been continuous­ly misled about their whereabout­s for years,” she said.

Ms. Fowler also is charged with two counts of endangerin­g the welfare of children. Again, Mr. Sontz said, the charge does not fit.

If you assume the children are alive, Mr. Sontz said, there is no evidence they’ve been endangered. If you assume they’ve died, he continued, the prosecutio­n can’t prove they’ve been endangered.

Ms. Goldfarb, who said investigat­ors have tracked down every lead the defendant provided, countered that the case falls under a totality of circumstan­ces and course of conduct.

“You are violating a basic duty of care when your children are somewhere, who knows where?” she said. “That doesn’t eliminate her responsibi­lity as a parent because they’re no longer with her. The children’s whereabout­s and well-being cannot be ascertaine­d.”

 ??  ?? Patricia Fowler
Patricia Fowler

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