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Parents accused of beating kids in ‘house of horrors’ will face trial


Charles Benjamin, 72, of York, is accused of severely beating the children. See his lawyer talk about the preliminary hearing.
Cameron Clark, York Daily Record

Charles Benjamin, 72, of York, is accused of severely beating the children — ranging in age from 2 to 6 — and keeping them locked in a bedroom.

YORK, Pa. – Elizabeth Jenkins sat on the witness stand in District Court 19-2-05 and methodically recounted the injuries that she observed on the five children that prosecutors say were beaten and locked in a urine-soaked bedroom.

Bruises. Scars. Abrasions. They were all over their bodies.

“It was overwhelming to see the children,” she said. Jenkins, who worked as a forensic nurse at York Hospital, described the injuries as “extremely significant” and added that she could not document them on one chart.

The York County Office of Children, Youth and Families and West York Borough Police Department removed the children from a home on West Market Street near Highland Avenue on Feb. 6.

West York Borough Police Chief Matt Millsaps has described the home as a “house of horrors.”

Following more than one hour of testimony, District Judge Jennifer J.P. Clancy on Wednesday ordered the father of the children, Charles Benjamin, 72, of York, to stand trial on five counts of aggravated assault and related offenses. He’s accused of severely beating the children — they ranged in age from 2 to 6 — with items including a board, belt and curtain rod and keeping them locked in the bedroom.

A pair of infant twins, police said, were spared from the abuse.

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Earlier, Janay Fountain, 25, the mother of the seven children, waived her right to a preliminary hearing via video conference — that was done to reduce the contact between her and Benjamin — from York County Prison.

Fountain is charged with 10 counts of endangering the welfare of children. She’s alleged to have not acted while the abuse took place.

Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness previously granted her request to be released on supervised bail. Senior Assistant Public Defender Alice Glasser, Fountain’s attorney, said her client’s supervised bail officer is working on finding her a place to go.

At one point, Fountain asked, “When do I get to my kids?”

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Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kara Bowser added a charge of false imprisonment against Benjamin and called two additional witnesses.

Megan Moore, an emergency caseworker with children, youth and families, said her office responded to the home for a report of a toddler with a busted lip, but it turned out an older child had it.

During that visit, Benjamin mentioned how the children threw $700 worth of meat over a fence and put checks into the toilet, Moore testified.

But she saw bruises on more than one child. They were placed in protective custody and taken to York Hospital for an evaluation.

Fountain told authorities that Benjamin struck the children with a board, a belt and a curtain rod. She said she would be locked in a bedroom if she tried to intervene. One child disclosed that “Daddy hit him with a belt.”

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West York Borough Police Detective Michael Mendez testified that one of the children said their father tried to drown him and a sibling in the bathtub. The child reported that his father had his hands on his stomach, and he was all the way down in the tub.

A pediatrician at Penn State Hershey Medical Center determined that the injuries were consistent with repetitive physical abuse, Mendez said.

The detective said an upstairs bedroom was soaked with urine, and he saw piles of human feces behind a radiator. The mother told police the children would use the bedroom as a bathroom because they were locked inside there.

“I could actually feel my shoes sticking to the floor,” Mendez testified.

When Fountain tried to sneak food to the child, she told police, Benjamin would reprimand her. Police found a bungee cord around one of the doors.

Five of his adult daughters present listened to the testimony. One dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

One daughter, who declined to give her name, spoke as she and her father were leaving the hearing.

“We love our father,” she said.

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In a previous interview with the York Daily Record/Sunday News, Benjamin, who’s free on $250,000 bail, denied the allegations and said that he loves his children.

“All I can tell you is it’s not true,” he said.

Benjamin declined to be interviewed on Wednesday.

Both Benjamin and Fountain are set to be formally arraigned on May 10.

Outside the courtroom, Clarence Allen, Benjamin’s attorney, said his client is innocent until proven guilty.

“Sometimes, the things are not like they appear to be,” Allen said. “This is just the beginning.”

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Follow Teresa Boeckel and Dylan Segelbaum on Twitter: @teresaboeckel and @Dylan_Segelbaum


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