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Zara Scruggs

No heat or hot water in apartment while father rapes 10-month-old baby girl, then flirts on Instagram as she dies: DA [Update]

A Pennsylvania man behind bars for the death of his infant daughter apparently kept her in an apartment with no hot water or heat while he sexually assaulted her, the district attorney says.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, 29-year-old Austin Stevens, an assistant youth football coach for Lower Providence Warriors, was arrested following a Saturday incident that left his daughter dead.

According to Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, Stevens’ daughter, 10-month-old Zara Scruggs, was at his house on Saturday night when a 911 call was placed. At around 10:40 p.m., responding officers who arrived at the home found the baby unresponsive in a “blood saturated” diaper.

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First responders rushed Zara to the Einstein Medical Center in Montgomery County, where she was pronounced dead. The bloody diaper was handed over to the authorities.

Austin Stevens [Police Handout]
Patch reports that Stevens had a joint custody agreement with Zara’s mother and he had recently moved to his own home off of the 3400 block of Germantown Pike. Zara was at his home during his visitation time, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Detectives said that Stevens caused blunt force head trauma to the baby during the alleged sexual assault.

“During that time, Stevens physically assaulted Scruggs causing blunt force head trauma. Additionally, Stevens sexually assaulted Scruggs…,” detectives wrote in the arrest affidavit. “These actions were a continuing course of conduct that created a substantial risk of death and Stevens failed to provide a duty of care when the child was in need of emergency care.”

After the assault, Stevens chatted with two females on Instagram instead of getting his baby help, authorities said, according to The Phoenix. Later, he allegedly made numerous incriminating search queries on his phone.

    • What if you don’t hear baby heart or beat
    • My baby isn’t breathing
    • How do you know if a baby is dead
    • If baby stops breathing

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Posted by Erica R. Scruggs on Thursday, December 26, 2019

 

“He had sole custody of the baby during this period of time,” Steele said.

During an interview between investigators and  Stevens, the suspect reportedly claimed that he left his daughter briefly in the bathtub while he went to the kitchen. Stevens allegedly said he “heard a bang” and went back to the bathroom and noticed his daughter had bumped her head.

Stevens said he removed Zara from the bathtub, placed a towel around her, and while placing her on a bed, noticed that her head fell back. He said he dialed 911 and immediately started CPR. Detectives, however, said that Stevens’ Internet searches occurred before he called 911.

Stevens later admitted he panicked and made the Internet searches, according to officials. He also admitted to chatting with two females on Instagram and never mentioning anything about Zara.

“The messaging content did not discuss any issues regarding Zara or her need for emergency care,” the arrest affidavit read.

Stevens was subsequently arrested and charged with rape of a child, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, aggravated assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. He remains behind bars at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility on $1 million bail.

“Depending upon what those findings are, there may be other charges forthcoming regarding this child’s death,” Steele said. “We’re waiting for the determinations to be made by the forensic pathologist. In a case like this involving an infant, there are further tests that need to be done.

Check back for updates.

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[Feature Photo: Zara Scruggs/GoFundMe