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child abuse

Erin Darr (PCSO)

Erin Darr has two weeks to get her supporters in court to speak on her behalf.

The Maricopa resident, already behind bars, was supposed to be sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to child abuse charges. Her attorney, Terry Sutton, requested a delay of 30 days, saying Darr had “a few people” who could not make the court date because of the holidays.

Judge Christopher O’Neil said the date had been on the calendar since September. The state, fully opposed to the postponement, asked for a compromise of no more than two weeks.

Darr earlier pled guilty to abuse of a child under 15 years old. The victim was in court with her grandmother and Victim Services.

Sutton said Darr “wants the court to understand who she was before this happened… If we were to go forward today, I don’t think that’s going to come across very clear to the court as to the type of person Ms. Darr truly is.”

He said family members and non-family members from the community want to speak on her behalf so Darr can have her “fair shot” in sentencing. She is being held without bond.

O’Neil expressed impatience with the request.

“I have the presentence report. I also do have the defendant’s sentencing memorandum, multiple character letters for sentencing,” he said. “I’ve spent hours reviewing the materials we’re today hearing. So I don’t, frankly, have a concern that I don’t have adequate information to conduct a fair hearing. Quite the contrary.”

He agreed there had been substantial time to prepare for the hearing. But he said he still preferred to make sure all parties were heard. O’Neill insisted Sutton choose a date in December.

“I’m not open to continuing it to January,” he said.

The judge set the new sentencing hearing for Dec. 18 at 3 p.m.

“If these individuals who were not available today continue not to be available at that time… we will go forward,” O’Neil said.

Veronica and Corey Masterson were indicted by a grand jury. PCSO photos

 

A pre-trial conference has been set for Veronica and Corey Masterson, a Maricopa couple accused of child abuse.

Friday, the couple, who are free on bonds of $50,000 each, appeared together in front of Judge Jason Holmberg. Though they have separate attorneys, only one attorney was in court to push the proceedings forward.

Veronica Masterson, 38, and Corey Masterson, 37, still have a hearing set in October, but their pre-trial conference was placed on Nov. 8.

They are accused of abusing their three children from November 2017 to November 2018 and were indicted on felony counts in December. In law enforcement records, the children accused the pair of hitting and kicking them, taping their mouths shut and depriving them of food and water.

The couple lost an infant child in 2013, and Veronica Masterson’s four oldest children perished in a fire last year in Illinois.

 

From left, Cupcake, Paddy-O, Sunshine and Winter are part of the Sawtooth Ridge chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse. Photo by Mason Callejas

When one conjures up the image of a biker they often imagine a mean, lawless brute with little regard for anyone but themselves.

Nothing could be farther from the truth for a group of local bikers who have taken on the mantle of protectors, helping youth facing abuse.

The newly formed Sawtooth Ridge chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse was officially “patched in” to the organization May 20 and now serves young victims of abuse in the greater Maricopa area. They help children up to 17 years old.

The members operate under a certain amount of anonymity, not sharing their real names in public.

Arizona BACA spokesperson “Nytro” said their primary purpose is to “work with local and state officials already in place to protect abused children.” They do this by filling a gap where law enforcement and state agencies are often stretched thin.

“We walk a fine line in what we do,” Nytro said. “But it is so simple; we show up.”

To be clear, Sawtooth Ridge Secretary “Cupcake” said, BACA is not a vigilante organization or gang. They don’t go around beating up suspected child molesters or threatening abusers.

BACA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a presence in 14 countries. Sawtooth Ridge is the fourth chapter of BACA to be formed in Arizona.

The organization essentially forms a protective barrier around a child in the event of a threat, Cupcake said. If a child in the organization is being threatened, that child’s guardian can call BACA and members in the area will respond, standing guard around that child’s home until the threat is over.

Photo by Mason Callejas

“They can call us up 365/24/7, at 2 o’clock in the morning, if they’re scared,” Cupcake said. “Because these kids are so terrified a lot of the time, they have to go to court and testify against the perpetrator, stuff like that can be traumatic.”

On occasion, the “perpetrator” or associates of the perpetrator will stalk the child by driving by their home or school and intimidating them, Sawtooth Ridge Vice President “Paddy-O” said. And that’s when the organization springs into action.

“We do something the cops can’t always do,” Paddy-O said about standing post outside a victim’s home.

“You got all these bikes out front, which is a deterrent by itself,” Paddy-O said. “And, if that doesn’t work, we become that physical barrier.”

On the rare occasion the perpetrator is not deterred, those standing guard will do whatever is necessary. Though BACA does not call on law enforcement themselves, they do advise the guardian of the child to call and notify them BACA will be responding and standing guard.

Protecting children from abusers is called Level 2 protection. Level 1 protection is companionship. BACA members visit the kids bi-weekly, sometimes playing games, sometimes doing nothing at all, Cupcake said; it’s entirely up to them.

“It’s all about giving the choices back to the kids,” she said.

Whether they are a Level 1 or Level 2, all kids protected by the organization are brought in as official “members,” given a BACA-patched denim jacket and blanket and even offered a chance to go for a ride on a bike of their choosing.

BACA uses special child liaisons to determine who will be allowed under their protective umbrella. Cases of abuse must be verified with court documents and police reports.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Likewise, there are prerequisites for bikers who want to join the organization.

Applicants are fingerprinted and go through an FBI, National Crime Information Center, background check. If their record is clear of any charges related to abuse or any crimes against children, they’re most likely given a chance at BACA.

The organization also emphasizes no one is allowed to be alone with a child.

To further protect the child, there is also an emphasis on anonymity. This means only the court liaison and possibly the chapter president are aware of the kid’s name.

“They rely on us to empower them,” Cupcake said, “to not be afraid of the world in which they live.”

1-877-235-7268
BACAWorld.org, Arizona.BACAWorld.org


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Shawn Main. PCSO photo

A woman facing the death penalty in the death of a child now has her trial date set.

Shawn Main, 46, is accused of causing the death of Tiana Rosalie Capps, age 3, in 2015. On Monday, she appeared before Superior Court Judge Kevin White in her wheelchair and a maroon jail jumpsuit. White set her trial date to begin July 31, 2018. It could last up to 10 weeks.

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty in the case.

Tiana was one of the four children of Tina Morse, who lived with Main and Maria Tiglao in a house on Ralston Road south of Maricopa. The children were primarily in the care of Main and Tiglao rather than their mother.

Nov. 19, 2015, Main called 911 to report a child in medical distress. Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputies and paramedics met Main’s vehicle near Amarillo Valley Road and Century Road as she was attempting to drive the girl to the hospital. According to PCSO, Tiana died in the emergency room and doctors reported unexplained injuries to her head and body.

An autopsy by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office showed Tiana died of “repeated blunt force trauma.”

Dec. 24, 2015, Main, Tiglao and Morse were all arrested.

In December 2016, Morse pled guilty to two counts of child abuse and was sentenced to two years in prison. Tiglao’s next hearing is set for April 24. She faces five counts of child abuse in the neglect of the children.

PCAO is trying to make a case that Tiana was in Main’s care when she was fatally injured and that the injuries were caused by Main.

Tiana’s three brothers were put into the custody of the Department of Child Safety.

Main’s trial is scheduled to last four weeks and another four weeks in the penalty phase if she is convicted, with two weeks of voir dire expected for jury selection and background.

Tina Morse

Tina Morse signed a plea agreement that will put her in prison for two years for events that led to the death of her 3-year-old daughter.

Tiana Rosalie Capps died of repeated blunt-force trauma Nov. 19, 2015, while in the care of Shawn Main, who was charged with murder. Main is still awaiting trial, and the Pinal County Attorney’s Office filed notice it intended to seek the death penalty.

Morse and another woman, Maria Tiglao, were charged with child abuse.

Tiana was one of four children belonging to Morse but being cared for by Main and Tiglao. All apparently lived in the same house on Ralston Road. Morse allegedly told Pinal County Sheriff’s Office investigators she had little to do with the care of her children.

Dec. 12, Judge Kevin White accepted her plea of guilty to two counts of child abuse. The prison sentence was attached to the first count, which specified Morse knowingly put Tiana in circumstances that would cause her to be injured or damage her health. Specifically, the plea stated, Morse permitted “the victim to be placed in a situation where she suffered severe diaper rash or burn and/or fail[ed] to seek prompt medical care for such condition.”

The two-year sentence takes into account time served.

The second count of her plea dealt with the abuse of her then-5-year-old son by “failing to protect him from physical injuries caused by Shawn Main.” For that violation of the law, Morse will be placed on lifetime supervised probation. She also is not allowed contact with her three sons. The two youngest boys were 4 years old and 5 months old at the time of their sister’s death.

Tiglao is no longer in jail but faces five counts of child abuse. Meanwhile, Main has a status hearing Jan. 30 for murder and abuse charges.

Shawn Main (left) is charged with murder in the death of Tiana Rosalie Capps. Charged with abuse are Maria Tiglao (center) and Tina Morse, the child's mother.

Sheriff Paul Babeu announced today the arrest of three women in connection with the Nov. 19 death of 3-year-old Tiana Rosalie Capps.

The arrests occurred on Dec. 24 after a month-long investigation into the child’s death from blunt force trauma while in the care of Shawn Main, a 45-year-old Maricopa resident. She was charged with murder and child abuse.

Also arrested were the child’s biological mother, Tina Morse, 27, and Maria C. Tiglao, 46. Both were charged with five counts of child abuse against the four children in their care.

“The investigation has shown that the biological mother and two other women who were supposed to be caring for these four children, failed miserably in their responsibility to protect these children from harm,” Babeu said. “We discovered that all of the children suffered from abuse, the worst case resulting in the death of 3-year-old Tiana.”

As reported earlier, PCSO received a 911 call from a caretaker reporting a child in medical distress and notifying officers she was driving the child to the hospital. That caretaker is now identified as Main.

Deputies and paramedics met Main’s vehicle near Amarillo Valley Road and Century Road, where she had pulled to the side of the road at the dispatcher’s request to start CPR on the child. Deputies found the child in full code and began emergency life-saving measures.

The child was transported by ground to a local emergency room where continued life-saving efforts were unsuccessful. The child died in the emergency room. Doctors trying to save the child noted she had unexplained injuries to her head and body.

The child lived with her natural mother and two other adult females at a home on North Ralston Road in unincorporated Maricopa. Deputies who showed up at the residence for the initial investigation reported the residence was filthy, with animal feces and belongings stacked throughout the house, typical of a hoarders’ residence.

They discovered three male children lived at the home as well, all biological children of Tina Morse. They were 5-years-old, 4-years-old and 5-months-old.

As a result of the deputies’ observations, they requested the surviving children be removed from the home by the Department of Child Safety.

Tiana’s autopsy was done by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office and showed she died of repeated blunt force trauma.

“When our detectives interviewed the women living in the home, they established that Shawn Main was responsible for caring for the three oldest children and Maria Tiglao cared for the infant,” Babeu said. “The biological mother, Tina Morse, admitted to providing no care for her children. Shawn admitted that Tiana was under her care at the time of her fatal injuries. Although Shawn claimed the child’s injuries were self-inflicted, the medical examiner’s report did not support the claims.”

According to the report, the five-year-old male was found to have injuries to his head and malnourished. The other children were found to be malnourished. All the surviving children remain in the custody of the Department of Child Safety.

The three suspects remain in custody at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center.