Carroll Twp. couple charged in child's death

Date: 2010-03-01

The York Dispatch

A Carroll Township couple accused of fatally abusing their 7-year-old adopted son last summer told police the child had "issues" and often hurt himself.

But investigators don't believe that claim and have charged Michael J. Craver, 45, and Nanette L. Craver, 54, of 36 Blair Mountain Road, with homicide.

The Cravers remain in York County Prison without bail and face additional charges of endangering the welfare of a child and conspiracy to commit both homicide and child endangerment.

Their adopted son, Nathaniel M. Craver, died Aug. 25, 2009, of complications from traumatic brain injury at Hershey Medical Center, according to the Dauphin County Coroner's Office.

The Cravers told investigators that Nathaniel had fallen the evening of Aug. 19, 2009, and hit his head on a wood stove at their home, according to charging documents. Carroll Township Police said the following morning, Michael Craver found Nathaniel unresponsive in bed and soaked with urine.

Bruised, malnourished: He drove Nathaniel to the emergency room of Holy Spirit Hospital, where doctors determined his injuries were life-threatening; the boy was transferred to Hershey Medical Center where he died after the Cravers discontinued life-support.

In the following hours, Carroll Township Police would learn the extent of Nathaniel's injuries. Doctors counted more than 80 external bruises in various stages of healing - 20 of which were on his head, according to charging documents.

Doctors also had identified old internal injuries including fractures on his forehead and old blood beneath his scalp, according to charging documents.

At the time of death, Nathaniel suffered from traumatic hemorrhages and swelling to the brain and brain stem as well as softening of the brain, according to documents.

Forensic pathologist Wayne K. Ross also found evidence of "severe failure to thrive," which contributed to Nathaniel's death, according to documents.

"The child was basically malnourished," York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said.

Kearney said investigators waited to file charges against Michael and Nanette Craver until the final autopsy report was complete, which took about six months.

Prior injury alleged: Michael Craver's mother, Sandy Craver, told investigators she saw Nathaniel around Memorial Day 2009 and that his eyes "were completely swollen shut, like he had two slits in his eyes," arrest documents state. When she asked her son what had happened, Michael Craver said, "You know he doesn't leave his eyes alone," meaning he was always rubbing and scratching them, documents state.

Sandy Craver and her husband, Robert Craver, told investigators they'd seen Nathaniel "bump into stuff and run around, but nothing that would cause alarm," according to charging documents.

"Robert said that when Nathaniel would do something wrong that was minor ... Nathaniel would get very scared that he was going to get in trouble," and would even shake, documents state.

Sandy and Robert Craver said they'd never seen Nathaniel deliberately try to hurt himself, and when they would raise questions about visible injuries on the boy, Michael and Nanette Craver "would always (say) that Nathaniel had 'fallen down,'" according to the documents.

'Clung' to aunt: Michael Craver's aunt, Sandy Atkins, told investigators she'd visited the family in August and that Nathaniel's eyes were swollen shut and the left side of his face was very swollen, documents state.

Atkins also said that during the visit, "Nathaniel just clung to her ... and would not let go," documents state, and she noticed a scar on his head.

When she asked about the scar, Michael Craver told her that Nathaniel had fallen "and Nanette had to fix it," according to the documents.

Investigators could find no medical records to indicate Nathaniel had received treatment for any physical injuries or illnesses at all in 2009, documents state.

Sister safe: Nathaniel's twin sister was removed from the couple's care and is safe, the district attorney said.

"That was a very large concern of ours," Kearney said.

Michael and Nanette Craver told investigators that Nathaniel would injure himself and that the week prior to his death he'd "thrown himself down stairs."

They said he'd been in a therapist's care and that they'd sought help for his psychological issues from different medical facilities but were ultimately refused, according to documents. Michael Craver also told investigators Nathaniel and his sister had been removed from their home two years prior to Nathaniel's death while York County Children and Youth investigated conditions at the home, according to documents.

Michael Craver said the children were taken out of school two years ago.

Michael Craver said the children received counseling and medication for their "issues." At some point, the children were returned; treatment had helped the girl, but Michael Craver said the medication Nathaniel took so he wouldn't hurt himself didn't work, according to documents.

Craver added that he'd discontinued Nathaniel's medication two weeks prior to his death. At some point during the interview with police, Michael Craver said, "We had feared that this day would come," according to documents.

Kearney says investigators do not believe the injuries were self-inflicted. They were arraigned Friday by Dillsburg District Judge Richard Thomas. A preliminary hearing is scheduled at 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 31.


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