HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Prosecutors, detectives, caseworkers, and a judge all cried in a Dauphin County courtroom Wednesday as a Harrisburg couple was sentenced in the starvation death of their 9-year-old son and the neglect of their 10-year-old daughter.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean McCormack called the case the worst he’s seen in his career.
“It’s hard to talk about, really,” he said.
McCormack spoke of gruesome new details of the night in August 2014 when police removed the decomposing body of Jarrod Tutko Jr. from the family’s home at 2119 Green Street. He said the boy’s father, Jarrod Tutko Sr., offered a cab driver $100 to bury a “dead cat” in the man’s backyard.
That did not happen. Instead, Tutko covered his son’s body in a sheet and then bought bleach and mothballs in an attempt to cover up the smell of the decaying body.
Tutko spent most of his sentencing hearing Wednesday with his head down. The 39-year-old had a chance to speak before he was sentenced.
“I am not a monster,” he told Judge John Cherry. “I am not a dangerous individual. I’m truly sorry to my children. I’m sorry to all the individuals who had to see my son in the condition he was in. I’m sorry to all of you.”
Cherry ordered Tutko to serve 21-42 years in state prison, the near maximum allowed.
Tutko’s wife Kimberly was hustled into the courtroom next, dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and shackled.
Prosecutors said when the 40-year-old was arrested last year, she had attempted suicide. McCormack said during a preliminary interview a few weeks earlier, she was more worried about an iPad than her children.
“I failed to act,” she told the court before she was sentenced to 20-40 years in state prison. “I will carry that guilt with me until the end of times. I want my son back. I can say I’m truly sorry.”
Both had pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and child endangerment. Mr. Tutko also pleaded guilty to concealing his son’s death.
They also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and child endangerment in the case involving their 10-year-old daughter.
Cherry gave “slight credit” to the couple for taking responsibility for their crimes, but he did not leave without reflecting on the case.
“When Jarrod Jr. passed, I believe he was in the arms of God who told him, ‘No need to worry, son. Your suffering, your pain, your starvation is over. You’re free,’ ” he said.
Cherry also told Kimberly Tutko that having 10 children, then losing rights to nine and one to death, is “unforgiven.” She had four children from a previous relationship.
McCormack echoed Cherry after sentencing.
“To give birth to 10 children, to have 10 of those children taken away from you – nine of them by the state and one of them through death – it’s incredible,” he said. “I can never conceive of that happening.”
McCormack said the Tutko’s five surviving children are in a much better place. Ariana, who was just “hours away from death,” is on the road to recovery, smiling, and receptive to love. He said when she was removed from the home, she was in a vegetative state and so covered in filth that hospital staff had to bathe her six times before they could stand the smell.
“It just goes to show how much better she is without her own parents,” he said. “I just wish we were able to do the same for Jarrod Jr.”