Officials in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, announced Tuesday that a man accused of sexually assaulting a toddler has now been charged with murder.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, 29-year-old Austin Stevens, an assistant youth football coach for Lower Providence Warriors, was arrested following an incident on October 3 that left his daughter dead.
According to Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, Stevens’ daughter, 10-month-old Zara Scruggs, was at his house 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.
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.
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 in Lower Providence Township. Zara was alone with Stevens during his visitation time when the incident occurred, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
After the baby’s death, investigators obtained a search warrant for Stevens’ phone, which allegedly had search queries that included:
- 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
Zara’s autopsy indicated she was not only sexually assaulted, but had blunt force trauma to her head.
“The Coroner’s Office’s ruling that this 10-month-old baby’s death was homicide confirms what our investigation showed: Zara died a deeply disturbing death at the hands of her father. Stevens will have to answer to murder charges,” Steele said, according to CBS Philly.
Stevens is also facing charges of 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
A preliminary hearing for all of Stevens’ charges is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m. Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Zara Scruggs/GoFundMe]