Back on March 10, a call came in to the Schuylkill County 9-1-1 dispatch center. Crews with Minersville’s Goodwill Fire Co. and EMS needed the help of borough police after they discovered a child who said he’d escaped his home at on St. Francis St.
EMT professionals on the scene said the child, 12 years old, was suffering from multiple bodily injuries and appeared to be the victim of abuse. The child, identified in a police affidavit as BR, told EMS that he “escaped” his home but his brother and two sisters were inside and they could be in danger.
Minersville Police responded with Officer Richard Clink, Patrolman Harry Brown, and Chief Michael Combs. Officers from Branch/Reilley Township PD also responded to a home on Fifth St., near where he’d escaped.
Authorities then went to BR’s home on St. Francis St. to investigate further.
Once inside, police discovered 3 other children and 2 adults. The adults were identified as Jennifer Yost, 27, the kids’ step-mother, and her mother, Wendy Yost, 51. The children, not including BR, are identified as:
- DR, an 11-year-old boy,
- JR, a 9-year-old girl, and
- SR, a 3-year-old girl
When Combs first entered the house, DR and JR were seated at a living room table. They looked “very pale, emaciated, and fearful,” according to the affidavit. SR, the youngest, was wandering freely through the house and police say, appeared well-fed. The youngest is the child of Richter and Jennifer Yost.
Police noticed a laceration on DR’s left wrist and a cut on his lip. The child told police he got the lash on his wrist from falling on a rock. And the cut lip was a result of him biting it. EMTs on the scene had a different take. They believe the child suffered what was likely a burn that started healing.
That was just the beginning of what police would find out is allegedly one of the more shocking cases of child abuse locally in recent memory.
Police Uncover Appalling Case of Child Abuse and Torture in Minersville
Here are some more details on the allegations against Richter and the Yosts, as told by the three children subjected to it.
A Peanut Jar and a 5-Gallon Bucket
The investigation inside what the children there describe as a house of horrors continued. BR told police that he, DR, and JR were held captive in the house’s attic. Police asked permission to investigate the rest of the house.
First, they entered what they call an upstairs storage area. Police say it reeked of urine. Inside this same storage area, police found a used “peanut butter” jar that appeared to be filled with urine. They found a 5-gallon bucket filled with what appeared to be liquid feces, police report.
Police also found a plywood door that led to what BR described as the attic where he and his siblings, with the exception of SR, were held. At the time, police say a bed frame wedged against it. As it was placed, police believe it would have been impossible for anyone to get out of the attic if they were inside.
The inspection of the home also revealed two bedrooms. BR, DR, and JR allegedly shared one bedroom with one bunk bed inside. SR had her own bedroom. Police described SR’s bedroom as clean and well-kept, even with toys inside.
After seeing the conditions inside, Clink decided to take emergency custody of all 4 children.
While this was going on, police say the father, Timothy R. Richter II, 32, arrived home. Police told him they were taking custody of the children. Agents from Schuylkill County Children & Youth took the children to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville for treatment of injuries.
Medical Exams Expose Appalling Evidence of Abuse and Torture
The medical exams conducted only served to uncover what appears to be years of sustained abuse and torture, the affidavit reveals.
BR stayed at the hospital for 4 days after being taken from his Minersville home. The boy told doctors that Richter and both Yosts would beat him daily with their hands, a belt, or a mallet. He wasn’t allowed to brush his teeth and rarely got to bathe.
BR said he could only eat once every couple days and he only got “scraps” from meals Richter and the Yosts would eat. Drinks were not served with meals and BR said he would drink from sink faucets when he washed his hands.
Medical analysis confirmed much of what BR told doctors those 4 days in Danville. They showed the child suffered a “number of bruises, abrasions, and a fluctuant hematoma over the presacral region, the area between the rectum and lowest part of the spine.”
Doctors say this is consistent with “acute and healing cutaneous [skin] injuries.”
“These findings are consistent with the patient’s offered history of being recurrently beaten,” doctors write in a report offered as court evidence.
Imaging scans on BR also showed “healing fractures” of the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae.
BR told doctors that was exposed to environmental hazards repeatedly, including the night back in March when he “escaped” his home. He also said that he endured “forced starvation,” doctors relay. They say lab tests confirmed signs of hypophosphatemia (a potentially severe electrolyte disorder), hypocalcemia (low levels of calcium in the blood), and anemia. Doctors believe BR is at risk of suffering refeeding syndrome.
Afraid to Talk
BR’s brother, DR, was at Geisinger-Danville for 3 days after being taken from his home.
Doctors say DR didn’t divulge much while in the hospital. He said he was afraid of reprisal if he said anything. But he did say that he, too, was subjected to “physical abuse, neglect, and starvation.”
Medical exams revealed “a number of scars over his chest, back and extremities.” The number and location of these injuries doctors described as “suspicious.” When doctors asked DR about them, he apparently said he wasn’t aware of how he got many of them and offered up reasons like tripping last summer and cutting his arm on a rock.
Doctors say that was a large laceration but he wasn’t taken to a doctor. Instead, Richter allegedly treated the wound at home.
DR also showed a number of abrasions and bruises on his right leg. He said those were the result of him tripping on the stairs inside the St. Francis St. home. He didn’t have an answer as to why he had healing fractures of his left humerus bone and right clavicle.
The brothers’ sister, JR, also stayed at Geisinger-Danville for 3 days. Doctors say she didn’t have nearly the number of injuries as her brothers. And the injuries she did have could be considered accidental for a person her age.
She did tell doctors that she didn’t feel safe in her home but wasn’t “interested in talking about the circumstances of her prior living arrangements.”
Hit in the Back with a “Thing”
JR finally did open up to the abuse she endured at that Minersville home during a follow-up interview conducted at UPMC Children’s Resource Center in Harrisburg. All 3 children were taken there on April 6. The investigation was furthered by Clink, Schuylkill County Detective Tom Robin, and Children & Youth case worker Jordan Brown.
During this part of the investigation, each child spoke individually and was questioned by a forensics expert.
JR said during this interview that Wendy Yost would hit her and her brothers on the back with a “thing” she got from the kitchen or dining room table. She didn’t know what it was exactly but described it as metal, black, and curved. After getting beaten with this “thing” JR said it hurt when she’d bend down.
JR also said that Wendy Yost would punch the children in the face or arms. And when she was finished, they’d be handed off to Jennifer Yost for continued punishment. She said Richter would often be present for these beatings.
The girl also revealed during this interview that she and her brothers were confined to their room often for punishment. They weren’t given meals and were only allowed to use the bathroom. She’d complain often of stomach aches but they’d go away by the time she woke up the next morning.
Drinking a Bottle of Water Found Lying Along the Road
During his interview in Harrisburg, BR revealed more details about the day he escaped his home back in March. The boy said he was sent to Wendy Yost’s house. Instead of doing that, he started walking to where he used to attend school. Along the way, he found a half-empty bottle of water on the side of the road, picked it up and drank it.
BR told investigators that he wasn’t concerned if it “had germs” because he hadn’t eaten in days and felt like he was about to pass out. While walking around, BR said he feared someone contacting Richter to let him know where he was. Richter, BR says, often threatened to kill him.
Fortunately, he said, someone else spotted him and contacted police.
Tortured by a Cat – Hit with Multiple Objects
The interview also revealed more details on the abuse BR took.
That included Wendy Yost agitating her cat. Once the animal was angry, she placed it on top of BR so the cat would scratch the boy.
Additionally, BR said he was hit by multiple other objects over the course of several years. He said Wendy Yost would hit the kids with a “mallet” and other items, including an Army belt, a wine bottle, a wooden spatula, and a branch from a tree. He said that the children would pretend that getting hit by a hammer hurt worse than a belt because getting hit with a belt was more painful.
BR said he was stuck with a metal fork. He was thrown down a flight of stairs “numerous” times, too.
The oldest of the children described even more instances of abuse during the interview earlier this week in Harrisburg. He said Richter put pliers on the membrane under his tongue. BR also said Jennifer Yost would stand on him and choke him. She told the boy she didn’t care if he died because she would hide his body. He said Wendy Yost also strangled him.
Fear of Showers
BR also developed a fear of showers, he said. That was due to Wendy Yost on several occasions tying his hands with Duct tape and putting in the bathtub, holding him under the water.
DR said he was submerged in a tub of cold water – arms and legs bound by Duct tape – numerous times by Richter and both Yosts as a form of punishment.
He also said that his father, Richter, would put him in the shower, grab him by the throat, and push him against the wall. Richter then allegedly sprayed the boy in the face with the shower head. He says his arms were Duct-taped together at the time.
Starved for Days
Both BR and his brother, DR, described going days without food, too.
BR said the kids only got leftovers and sometimes, it had mold on it. The children found a “peanut butter jar” while confined in the attic and used it to collect rainwater from a gutter outside the attic window. BR said the kids would drink that water and eat snow when they weren’t fed.
DR confirmed the same story about the peanut butter jar to investigators.
During times when the children were allowed downstairs, DR said in his interview that Richter and Jennifer Yost would often have big meals. Whatever they didn’t eat, which wasn’t much, he said, the kids would get to eat. When they finished eating, they were sent back to the attic.
In one instance, DR said he took a yogurt that Jennifer Yost brought home from the grocery store. When Yost found out about this, she grabbed a knife and cut his arm. He says he now has a hard time bending his wrist because of the slash he suffered.
In his interview, DR said the children were locked in the attic for days without food, water, and proper sanitation
BR also disclosed more about the attic where the children were confined in that Minersville home. He described it as “freezing” and that he and his brother and sister weren’t allowed to eat.
The kids used a bucket for a toilet. BR said that Richter would come in occasionally and empty the bucket.
Arraigned and Sent to Prison
According to the Republican Herald, Richter and Yosts were taken before District Judge David Plachko in Port Carbon on Thursday. Plachko is quoted in the paper, saying the allegations in the case are “the most serious, disturbing, and heart-wrenching” he’d ever seen in his time as judge.
The three of them were sent to Schuylkill County Prison without bail.
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