Charges have been upgraded for a 29-year-old Montgomery County dad who authorities said anally raped his 10-month-old daughter, killing her by way of blunt force head trauma.
Austin Stevens, of Lower Providence Township, is accused of anally raping baby Zara Scruggs, who died hours after the incident at the hospital Oct. 4, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said.
Stevens was initially charged with involuntary sexual intercourse, rape of a child, aggravated assault, child endangerment and aggravated indecent assault. Following this week's return of forensic test results that determined cause of death to be blunt force head trauma, Stevens has been charged with first, second and third-degree murder, Steele said.
“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," Steele said. "Stevens will have to answer to murder charges."
More than $52,000 had been raised for baby Zara as of Wednesday on a GoFundMe campaign launched by Brionna Cassaundra Wise on Oct. 6.
"Our beautiful Zara Lynn Scruggs was taken from us by a monster.," the campaign reads. "She deserved to grow up. She deserved to be with her family. She deserved all the amazing things in this world."
Police responding to a 9-1-1 call at Stevens' home on Germantown Pike found his baby girl unresponsive, and immediately began CPR, authorities said.
The baby was taken by ambulance to Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, where -- despite resuscitation efforts -- she was pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. Oct. 4, Steele said.
An autopsy conducted by Dr. Frederick Hellman, a forensic pathologist with the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, determined the baby was the victim of a sexual assault, sustaining anal rectal trauma and blunt force trauma to the head, according to Steele.
The coroner’s office ordered additional forensic tests, which returned this week. The cause of death was finalized by Hellman as blunt force head trauma, and the manner of death was homicide, authorities said.
An investigation into the baby’s death found Stevens and the baby were the only people home at the time of death, Steele said.
Further, Stevens had searched Google for nearly an hour before calling 9-1-1, with subjects including "If baby stops breathing," "What if you don’t hear baby heart or beat," “My baby isn’t breathing" and "How do you know if a bsby is dead," authorities said.
"Stevens also conducted social media and text conversations with two women during this time that were not related to the baby’s condition," authorities said.
Detectives recovered the bloody diaper that was worn by the baby when she was transported to the hospital.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m.,, Dec. 1 for all charges. Stevens was being held without bail, and has been jailed since his original arrest date.
The case will be prosecuted by First Assistant District Attorney Edward F. McCann, Jr. and Assistant Chief of Trials Brianna Ringwood, who oversees the Family Protection Unit
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