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Mother in Franklin Park abuse case seeks sentence reduction

December 31, 2014

The lawyer for a Franklin Park woman accused of abusing her two adopted children from Ethiopia is asking that she be granted home confinement and electronic monitoring.
Kristen and Douglas Barbour walk along Ross Street after leaving the Allegheny County Courthouse in June.
Kristen and Douglas Barbour walk along Ross Street after leaving the Allegheny County Courthouse in June.

Kristen Barbour, 32, pleaded no contest to two felony counts of endangering the welfare of children in June 2014 and was sentenced to six to 12 months’ incarceration with work release. Barbour was eligible for alternative housing, but was later granted work release to leave the Mercer County Jail for up to 8 1/2 hours, six days per week to care for her two biological children while her husband, who was also charged, and in-laws work.
Douglas Barbour, 35, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of children and was sentenced to five years of probation.
Attorney Robert E. Stewart, who did not respond to requests for comment, filed the petition Dec. 17.
Barbour “poses no threat to society and no evidence was presented to show that she has any propensity to be a recidivist,” the petition read. He also noted she has been compliant with terms of her work release.
Alison Patterson, who adopted the two Ethiopian children in July with her husband, said, “That Ms. Barbour caused this petition to be filed just two months into a sentence that includes daily furlough is further evidence that she fails to grasp the seriousness of the crimes for which she has been convicted.”
When the petition was filed, Barbour had served about 60 days at Mercer County Jail and four months home confinement. Mr. Stewart said he spoke with Mercer County Probation, who said Barbour would be eligible for home monitoring in Mercer County.
She and her husband were accused of abusing the children they adopted in March 2012, a one-year-old girl and a boy, 6. He was malnourished and had skin injuries from lying on a urine-soaked mattress. The baby was rushed to a hospital Sept. 14, 2012, unresponsive and seizing. Doctors suspected abusive head trauma and noted she had healing injuries to her leg and foot. A report to Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families was made two days later.
Both children were placed in foster care and were adopted after the Barbours consented to having their parental rights terminated.
“My heart hurts, and if this petition is granted, I worry for the future time when I will have to explain this to my children,” Mrs. Patterson said. “I worry right now for the message this petition sends to other child victims.”
During Barbour’s sentencing hearing in September, deputy district attorney Jennifer DiGiovanni told Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning that one of the most troubling parts of the case was how “entirely preventable this was.”
Although the Barbours sought help, “they promptly and completely ignored” the advice, the prosecutor said.
She listed several examples, including a physical therapist who had been working with the little girl. She had been walking well, but at another visit a week later was dragging her leg. Barbour was told to get the girl to a doctor immediately. Instead, a broken femur and toe went untreated for weeks.

Lexi Belculfine: lbeleculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Post-Gazette staff writer Paula Reed Ward contributed.

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