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child abuse

Sarah Finch, 30, was arrested April 27 on numerous charges including child abuse, aggravated assault, endangerment and disorderly conduct.

The arrest stemmed from a report March 20 when Maricopa Police responded to call on West Portobello Road on a delayed report of child abuse. The man reporting the abuse stated his girlfriend came home intoxicated March 6, instigating a fight. The woman, later identified as Finch, allegedly kicked and hit the man and two children. The man stated Finch threw multiple items at the children and continued to hit them.

Sarah Finch (PCSO)

According to reports by police, Finch’s other two biological children, accompanied by their friends, witnessed the altercation. The man provided video recordings from his cellphone of Finch’s actions. Police allege the videos show Finch throwing a bottle of hand sanitizer at one of the kids and hitting the man while he held a child, as well as the child crying as if being struck by Finch.

Some of the children had a forensic interview with officers and confirmed the man’s story and the actions shown in the video footage. Finch allegedly smashed glass items on the floor by throwing them at the family and attempted to pull one of the children to the front door. Finch left the residence during the initial call to the police.

Finch was arrested more than a month later when she eventually returned and was booked at Pinal County Jail.

Erin Darr (PCSO)

Despite pleas for leniency from family members, a Maricopa mother was sentenced to seven years for abusing a stepchild.

Erin Darr, 36, pleaded guilty to two counts of abusing a child under the age of 15. She admitted to pushing the 13-year-old down a set of stairs and forcing the child to eat vomit. The state had asked for the maximum allowable of 7.5 years and lifetime probation.

Judge Christopher J. O’Neil, saying aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors, sentenced Darr to seven years in prison and 15 years’ probation. She was credited with 86 days behind bars. O’Neil also imposed fines totaling $5,520.

“I know I was wrong for what I did, and there’s not a day that goes by without wishing I would have done things differently,” Darr said.

She told the court she plans to continue taking parenting classes to be prepared when she is reunited with her children. She was a stay-at-home mom to six.

“Your honor, as you see I have a family at home that needs me and teens that need their mom’s guidance and love and presence as well as a husband who needs my support in raising them,” she told O’Neill. “This is why I’m asking for your leniency today in my sentencing, so I may return home to continue raising my children.”

The victim’s grandmother told O’Neil the victim has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and ADHD. Since being in her care, Cindy Miller said, the girl has grown and gained weight and is much healthier. She said her granddaughter just wants the case over and done.

Darr’s father, husband, sister, uncle and cousin spoke on her behalf at the Friday proceedings in Superior Court.

Beau Clute, her father, said Darr was always a “good kid.”

“Contrary to what the court believes or even what Erin says, in my heart I don’t think that this happened,” he said.

Husband Chad Darr, who is the father of the victim, said he had lost his family because of the situation.

“I lost all my children, and I miss every one of them,” he said. “I miss my wife. I know a lot of things could have happened in my house that I had no control over because I was not there. If it did happen, I apologize.”

He called Erin his best friend who helped him be a better husband and father while giving back to the community.

“I need my wife’s help raising our children,” he said. “I need to try to get my family back together.”

Erin Darr’s attorney, Terry Sutton, asked for 3.5 years of jailtime and five years’ probation. He said the court should have been more lenient with Darr because she was a first-time offender with family support.

Sutton conceded the crimes to which Darr pleaded guilty were “horrendous.”

Judge O’Neil agreed on the horrendous nature of the crimes.

“Those things may be very difficult for the family and friends and loved ones of Ms. Darr to accept, but those are things Ms. Darr has sought to take responsibility for and for which she stands before the court today,” he said.

O’Neil added Darr failed to provide or call for medical help when the victim was injured and lied to investigators “and enlisted her children to lie to conceal the abuse.”

During her probation after her prison sentence, O’Neil said Darr was to have no contact with the victim and no contact with her children under the age of 18.

Veronica Masterson and Corey Masterson (PCSO)

A Maricopa couple accused of child abuse insisted on a bench trial, with the husband citing corruption as the reason.

In a Friday hearing for the case against Corey Masterson, 37, and Veronica Masterson, 38, Judge Jason Holmberg cautioned the two about the decision. Though he clarified with both that they knew what rights they were waiving and they were not under the influence of anyone or anything, Holmberg was skeptical of the decision.

The Mastersons, represented by separate attorneys, are set for trial March 16. They were indicted on felony child-abuse charges Dec. 19, 2018. It was to be an eight-person jury.

“You understand the jury has to be unanimous in the verdict of guilty and it would be eight people the state would have to convince beyond a reasonable doubt?” Holmberg queried them. “All of them would have to agree. If you waive that right and it’s just the judge making that decision in the case, it’s just one person.”

“That’s the whole point of why we’re doing this, sir, because the judge will be accountable for the decision made in there,” Corey Masterson said. “We went above and beyond to inform everybody involved in this case as we have a family court case going on at the same time. I don’t know who I’m supposed to report to when the three corrupt people or the three corrupt individual agencies are all the agencies that I’m supposed to report to.”

When Corey Masterson began to explain details of the family court situation, Veronica Masterson pulled on his arm, and Holmberg told him not to present his case just yet. Both Mastersons reaffirmed their decision to seek a bench trial.

Holmberg, still dubious about their decision to waive rights, ordered them to put the demand in writing. The two remain free on bond.

The Maricopa Police Department’s probable-cause report cited interviews with the children, who described physical abuse, neglect and withholding of food and water. Three children were removed from the home.

The couple lost an infant child in 2013, and Veronica Masterson’s four oldest children perished in a fire in 2017 in Illinois.

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.