Harrisburg, PA – Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced criminal charges against a Clarion County man and woman for endangering the welfare of a child, false imprisonment, and other related charges after the defendants physically restrained their adopted daughter and endangered her well-being with unlawful punishment.
An investigation revealed 26-year-old Samantha Ferguson punished one of her adopted daughters by keeping her in a utility closet with exposed electrical wires, piping and other sensitive household hardware that could pose a danger to children if left alone in the dark. The young girl is diagnosed with ADHD, yet Samantha Ferguson had taken her off her medication due to religious beliefs.
“There are consequences for failing to protect children in Pennsylvania. Our agents and attorneys work tirelessly to investigate every single lead that comes to our office, and when we received this referral we acted quickly,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “My Office is focused on defending the defenseless, and will continue to hold child abusers accountable.”
In one instance, Samantha caught her daughter playing in the closet when she was supposed to be sitting still as instructed, for punishment. As a result, the defendant handcuffed and/or duct-taped her hands together every time she was sent to the closet. In another instance, when the victim yelled out in pain and to be released from the handcuffs and tape put on her wrists, the defendant placed duct tape over the victim’s mouth to keep her quiet. It is alleged that Samantha also cuffed her daughter to the bedpost as a form of punishment, only lettering her out to be fed depending on the time of day.
35-year-old Joseph Ferguson, husband of Samantha Ferguson, admitted to being aware of the details and agreeing to and witnessing the punishment administered to the victim by his wife.
The victim and her sister, who was also adopted by the Fergusons, were undergoing trauma therapy for sexual and physical abuse in their prior home. Both girls are currently in custody of Children & Youth Services.
The investigation was initiated by a Pennsylvania Childline report that was called in to Pennsylvania Child Welfare Services in October 2018. This case was referred to the Office of Attorney General by Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron.
Preliminary hearings for both defendants are scheduled for April 2, 2019 at 11:15 a.m. This case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Alicia Werner.