Carroll Twp. woman accused in son's death can trade letters with daughter

Date: 2010-10-20

By Elizabeth Evans

A Carroll Township woman accused, along with her husband, of fatally beating their 7-year-old adopted son has been granted permission to write and receive letters from their daughter.

The girl is the twin sister of Nathaniel Craver, who died Aug. 25, 2009, of complications from traumatic brain injuries, according to authorities, who also said he was malnourished. Nathaniel suffered some 80 external injuries in various stages of healing, police said.

Nanette L. Craver, 54, and Michael J. Craver, 46, both of 36 Blair Mountain Road, have been in York County Prison since Feb. 26, charged with first-degree murder and related offenses in their son's death. If convicted, they face the death penalty.

The Cravers, who adopted Nathaniel and his sister from a Russian orphanage, maintain Nathaniel caused his own injuries.

On Tuesday, presiding Common Pleas Judge John S. Kennedy granted a defense motion allowing Nanette Craver contact with the girl, who court records state is living with a family member.

Kennedy's order permits Nanette Craver to write letters to her daughter, and to receive letters from the girl, with the understanding that York County Children and Youth officials will have the authority to first review all the letters to determine if they are appropriate.

On Sept. 22, Kennedy granted the same request for Michael Craver.

Pretrial motions: Also this week, attorneys for both Michael and Nanette Craver filed pretrial motions, which are scheduled to be heard by the judge at 9 a.m. Nov. 19, according to court records.

Both motions, filed Monday, ask Kennedy to dismiss first- and third-degree murder charges against the Cravers, arguing prosecutors failed to prove at a preliminary hearing that the Cravers possessed a specific intent to kill -- needed for a first-degree murder conviction -- or malice, a required element for both first- and third-degree murder.

A forensic pathologist who testified for the prosecution at the preliminary hearing could not exclude the possibility that Nathaniel's brain injury was self-inflicted, according to Michael Craver's motion.

Care given: Michael Craver's motion also states that the Cravers provided significant medical care to Nathaniel and his sister in the two years before his death, including through Dillsburg Family Practice, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Lancaster Institute for Children and Families, Pennsylvania Counseling and two other medical providers.

Nathaniel was diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, and "one of the symptoms of this disorder observed in (Nathaniel) by his treatment professionals was self-injury," according to the motion.

The boy was also under the care of a psychiatrist, the motion states.

Death penalty: Motions for both Cravers ask the judge to forbid prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, arguing it is cruel and unusual, unconstitutional and would preclude them from getting a fair trial.

If the judge does not throw out the death penalty, both Cravers are asking for separate juries for the guilt and penalty phases of their trial. That means the jury that decides their guilt or innocence would be different from the jury that would decide whether to impose the death penalty.

Prosecutors have cited two aggravating factors that they say make the death penalty appropriate -- Nathaniel's young age and that his death constituted torture. Attorneys for both Cravers are asking the judge to remove the aggravating circumstance of torture.

Additionally, defense attorneys are requesting two separate trial juries -- one for Michael Craver, the other for Nanette Craver.

Suppression issue: Michael Craver is also asking the judge to suppress any statements he made to police and Children and Youth Services workers around the time he and his wife took Nathaniel to Hershey Medical Center. His attorneys argue he was not informed of his Miranda right to remain silent.

The motions also ask the Cravers' trial either be moved to a different county or have out-of-county jurors brought to York County. Both motions argue pretrial publicity has affected the Cravers' ability to receive a fair trial.

Nanette Craver's motion says articles have been "inflammatory and slanted towards the prosecution and, therefore, prejudicial."

Nanette Craver is being represented by Gerald Lord and Rick Robinson. Michael Craver is being represented by Suzanne Smith, Clasina Mahoney and Ron Jackson Jr.

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