HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Harrisburg couple accused of letting their son starve to death in deplorable conditions heads to trial Monday morning, court documents show.
It’s a case that shocked the Midstate and eventually led to changes in a county agency.
It dates back to August 2014. Police at the time painted a picture of extreme neglect: a room smeared with feces, locked from the outside, with 9-year-old Jarrod Tutko, Jr., dead inside for days.
“I haven’t been up on this floor for years,” Kimberly Tutko, Jarrod’s mother, told abc27 News soon after officers found the boy’s body in the third-floor room.
Kimberly said her husband, Jarrod Tutko, Sr., was the one who cared for their disabled son, and then hid his death from her.
It was later revealed Jarrod, Sr., discovered his son’s body on July 28, but didn’t tell his wife until Aug. 1. She then called police.
“He had this blocked off; he had moth balls behind here,” Kimberly explained, showing abc27 cameras the area where her son was locked up. “So he was doing anything he can to conceal the smell.”
Jarrod Tutko, Sr., was arrested for covering up the death.
The Dauphin County District Attorney’s office filed homicide charges against both parents in late September, two weeks after the community united to remember Jarrod, Jr., at an uptown Harrisburg church.
“I have never seen a worse crime scene than what we witnessed at the house,” police chief Thomas Carter said when announcing the homicide charges.
The autopsy showed Jarrod weighed less than 17 pounds when he died at age 9, just three pounds heavier than he was at 9 months old.
He starved to death.
“It’s as horrific a case as we can imagine for someone that innocent,” district attorney Ed Marsico said.
A grand jury report from this June led to more charges against both parents, including aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child, for neglecting another child — a 10-year-old daughter — almost to the point of death.
Investigators found her in a vegetative state with a serious brain injury when they found Jarrod’s body.
The Tutkos had five kids besides Jarrod; the county put them all into the foster system.
The grand jury findings also revealed Dauphin County Children and Youth Services dropped the ball. An agency in disarray, they’d been to the Tutko home before responding to an abuse complaint.
But an overworked, under-trained staff didn’t find anything.
What’s more, the couple had been investigated for abuse in the past, both in Schuylkill County and in New Jersey.
“There is no doubt that serious mistakes and errors of judgement were made in the past,” said CYS interim director Joe Dougher after June’s grand jury report. “This is something everyone at Dauphin County Children and Youth department deeply regrets.”
The county promised change: more staff, more training, more money. And in September, commissioner hired a new leader for the agency.
“I want to do everything that I can to ensure that something like that never happens again,” Annmarie Kaiser said after she was hired as new CYS director.
The Tutkos were scheduled to head to the Dauphin County Courthouse Monday morning at 9 a.m.