26, 1999 - August 7,
A Grave Memorial
Tatar was born
with a stomach problem that was treatable. Within weeks of her birth,
also diagnosed her with failure to thrive syndrome due to her parents
to feed her properly. Tied to a chair with a pacifier tied to her
her parents just wanted to keep her still. Kristen was not fed
she was not bathed and she was not loved. Kristen's parents did not
her to her regular doctors appointments and they managed to dodge case
workers by moving around a lot.
body, weighing only 12 pounds, was found in a cooler at her parents
she was four years old. The cooler had been wrapped in plastic bags and
stuffed in a garbage can. In 2003, Kristen Tatar died of malnutrition
dehydration. Kristen's death was caused by her own parents, Janet
and James Tatar. This was NOT the first time Janet would have
a child. Janet Crawford had three daughters from a previous marriage,
lost custody of those three children after repeated being turned in on
charges that she was abusing her children.
Crawford were awarded joint custody of their three daughters after
divorce in 1997. Robert Crawford would file an emergency petition for
in February of 1999. Robert had filed complaints saying that one of his
daughters had missed 45 days of school and that Janet had not taken her
daughter in for medical care when she needed it. Robert also said that
his children were forced to sleep on the floor at Janet's house.
was given to Robert during the school year.
lawyer for the Crawford child filed an emergency petition claiming that
Janet had been allowing her 15 year old child to have sex with her
in her home. There were also some complaints about arguments that took
place between Janet and the father of her Kristen Tatar, James Tatar.
the complaints were also allegations of neglect, improper parental
anger issues and domestic violence. Temporary custody was given to
in November of 2001.
the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau was in the process of
Kristen to Janet against the advice of the foster parents who told them
that Kristen had suffered terribly while with her mother.
to be major changes made. One thing they need to do, they need to start
o the foster
- Kristen's Foster Mother
Reese had not been in contact with or seen their half sister, Kristen
about two years. When Jaycee decided she wanted to have a relationship
with her mother again, she started spending time with her and her
boyfriend, James Tatar. When Jaycee asked about Kristen her mother
had excuses about where the child was:
"I asked several
times when I went back, and it was always either she's in rehab or
was not satisfied
with these answers and her suspicions were deepened by her mothers
that she not go into the room which had been Kristen's room and was now
called the "forbidden room". Jaycee said it was called that because of
a strong odor that came from the room. Jaycee asked her five year old
brother Nick where Kristen was. Nick told her that when Kristen was
she was put into the attic by her mother and that he thought she was
she was scared
to go into the attic, Jaycee did get the nerve to go into Kristen's
In the room she found clothing, tools and coolers. There was no sign of
her half sister other than a toddler bed, two pairs of shoes and a
bear. Jaycee said that her mother was blaming the foul odor in that
on water in the crawl space. It was just another part of the story that
Jaycee didn't believe:
they had Kristen's body in the crawl space and they moved it to the
for that room
to have that odor, it had to be quite a while."
had been adopted by Michelle Reese two years prior. Michelle was the
to contact the police when Jaycee started to wonder where her half
was and began to ask questions.
"When I know
that Janet, her mother, let her go through that house with her dead
nights there, it makes me sick."
girls have had a hard time dealing with the fact that their mother
their sister. They have cried quite a bit:
put it past them that they're guilty. That's hard, it really is,
that's my mom."
parents of James
Tatar say that they had no idea that Kristen was being neglected. They
insist that if they had known about it, they would have taken her away
from them. They are naive enough to believe or at least to SAY
believe their son when he says he also didn't know about the neglect.
says she is haunted by guilt that she
was not there
to help her granddaughter:
"Ya know, you
have your guilt that we should've questioned. This we should've
That we should
have known this,"
says that she
had only seen Kristen a few times in her short, four year life. She
that child was in and out of the hospital and also was in and out of
homes. James and Janet told Rose that the child was in a home for
who had medical and behavioral problems such as Kristen had. She was
told that no one would be allowed to visit Kristen, not even her
If these grandparents were willing to allow this child to be placed in
a home like that and not know ANYTHING about it and not be able
to visit her, what kind of a grandparent is that?
had said to
someone that it had been two Christmases since she had seen Kristen.
Rose turned around and told Police that she had seen Kristen a week
her body was found. Rose gave the excuse that she had lied because she
thought her son and Janet were being harassed by the Westmoreland
"When the police
asked me if I saw Kristen, I thought I was protecting them from being
I said I saw
her and that was the worst thing I've ever done in my life,"
and her husband
Julius say that they believe their son didn't know about the abuse and
neglect Kristen was suffering though since he traveled out of town a
or two at a time.
"I can't see
my son knowing that girl's in the back of his yard in a plastic bag.
can't. I just can't -- I can't believe
the plastic Kristen's body was wrapped in came from the company James
for. James told his family that he had not see Kristen since Easter and
that he had believe his girlfriend when she said Kristen had been
in a foster home. What kind of a father doesn't check this story out?
and Julius believed that James was ONLY guilty of not asking Janet
where Kristen was and not checking the story out. They think his only
lies in believing what he was told, but, that is not a murderer.
and Janet were
both arrested and charged with homicide.
Blake, who was
Kristen's case worker says that Kristen didn't have the right care from
the beginning of her life"
feeding her properly. She didn't have proper nutrition and she could
at any time.
It was a very serious condition."
that when Kristen went to live with foster parents, her condition
Lori Weimer said that Bill Blake was a very attentive case worker.
me every other day to make sure she was able to eat, that she was OK,
all right. The other caseworkers didn't."
Blake said that
some of the other caseworkers were not as attentive as he was had been
and they didn't stay on top of the case the way he did. Bill claimed
another caseworker was so intent on getting Kristen back with her
that she lied and signed papers stating that James Tatar had been taken
several parenting classes when in face he had only taken one. When
if he believed the caseworker had faked the records Bill said"
"I think so
-- yes, obviously. That's what I think."
blake says that Children's Bureau did not
protect Kristen from her parents and when asked who he thought was
responsible for her death he said:
"It's the county
and the caseworkers. They should have been on top of this. They should
for what happened to this nice little girl"
County Children's Bureau says that they are not allowed to comment on
cases due to the laws. Director Jerry Sopko says that the law stopping HIM
from talking, is the same law that should stop Bill Blake from talking.
Bill Blake says that he feels very strongly about this case and it's
important that he speaks out about it. I agree with him. It sounds like
Jerry Sopko is trying to cover up ANOTHER instance where the
failed to protect a child and the child paid the ultimate price.
eventually plead guilty to homicide, abuse of a corpse and endangering
the welfare of a child. The prosecutors were trying to convict her of
degree murder to ensure that she would be given life without the
of parole. The District Attorney decided to allow her to testify
James in order for her to avoid the death penalty. In
2004 James Tatar
and Janet Crawford were both convicted of first degree murder and
to life in prison.
try to get a new trial claiming that he had not been represented
James said that his attorney was not qualified to go to court with a
penalty case. In January of 2009, Judge Kenneth Valasek dismissed his
and denied him a new trial. The Judge said that since James' attorney
assisted by another attorney with death penalty expertise, he HAD
been represented properly.
the case workers?
kept, by case workers, of the abuse in Kristen's life. However, shortly
after the death of Kristen, there are claims that the organizations
the records began to change and even destroy some of the paperwork
to Kristen's care through their system. A wrongful death lawsuit had
filed by Cathy Fondrk, on behalf of Kristen's brother, with the
• Penn State
Cooperative Extension personnel admitted to burning documents that
be potentially embarrassing to the university and Westmoreland County
County supervisors and caseworkers conceded they added entries to
case files after state police found her body.
County became so convinced that Westmoreland County child welfare
altered documents that they hired a forensic chemist who is scheduled
testify that dates and signatures on forms don't match.
Penn State and Extension supervisor Nancy Wallace; Westmoreland County
and employees Daniel Fitzpatrick, Marilyn McSparrin and Sandra
Armstrong County and caseworker Stephen Fancella; former Armstrong
caseworker Carla Danovsky; and Kristen's parents, who are serving life
prison terms for their 2004 murder convictions.
so much we can do to change the laws to protect children, so we have to
make the agencies themselves change,"
had supposedly been faxed, never was. It was well known that Kristen
losing weight, however, Westmoreland County social workers claimed
were going well, making "remarkable progress". This was a lie and they KNEW
it. A woman with the last name Pallatto KNEW
that Kristen was
not doing well and marked her case as closed. After closing the case,
made a phone call to the Armstrong County officials and told them that
there continued to be problems that needed to be taken care of and that
someone needed to get into that house as soon as possible.
investigating the death of Kristen, Mary Lou Warchola told her
Nancy Wallace that there were several documents missing from the files.
It was then that Nancy Wallace got concerned about what was missing and
sent out a memo that all hand written notes which had been written for
Westmoreland County, were to be destroyed. Nancy claimed that
had approved of what she had asked employees to do.
investigators would attempt to get Walmsley's writings, Wallace posted
a memo ordering Penn State employees to destroy all handwritten notes
for Westmoreland County. Wallace said in her deposition that Penn State
supervisors, including Greensburg director Gary Sheppard,
June 30, 2005,
Nancy Wallace wanted to be sure that Mary Lou Warchola had destroyed
of the documents she had asked to her destroy. Mary Lou said she had
and the papers had jammed the paper shredder. Nancy told Mary Lou to
the papers, Nancy told Mary Lou that it would make her feel better
"And make sure
that you sit down with a glass of wine and a box of Kleenex when you
the name of Carla Danovsky was assigned to the case of Kristen. She
phone calls to Nancy Walmsley, though the calls were not always
Carla was trying to find Kristen and Nancy was NOT helping her
And get it out of your system and move on,"
"She told me
not to call her back, not to go to their house, to keep my big mouth
and I'll lose my job," said Walmsley. Those were her exact words."
is obvious that
the state employees failed Kristen Tatar. Proving, once again, that the
system doesn't always work, especially when the system is only looking
out for number one. In order to cover their own mistakes and their own
responsibility in the deaths of children, they will lie, forge
and place the blame on everyone other
than those who are
Monument dedicated to Kristen Tatar.
Death Occurred in the
state of Pennsylvania
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