Tale Of Beatings Unfolds In Death Of Salvadoran Boy

Relates to:
Date: 1984-12-24
Source: mcall.com

by CHUCK AYERS, The Morning Call

Carlos Belgran, a 4-year-old native of war-ravaged El Salvador, arrived in the United States nine months ago to begin a new life with an adopted family in Montgomery County.

The youth's guardians were a 33-year-old insurance salesman and his 35- year-old wife, described by neighbors as religious people and good parents who kept mostly to themselves, had two natural daughters a son."

Peter and Christine Moyer of Franconia Township were in the process of adopting the boy when he was found dead in their home Dec. 14.

Dr. Halbert Fillinger, who performed the autopsy, said the boy's body was bruised and that he died of multiple injuries that could not have been caused accidentally.

Fillinger's statements are contained in the affidavit of probable cause filed by Franconia police, which was examined by The Morning Call.

The couple surrendered last Thursday and were arraigned on charges of third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated and simple assault, recklessly endangering another and endangering the welfare of a child.

"The injuries found on Carlos were indicative of child abuse. The injuries were inconsistent with any type of accidental injury," the affidavit quoted Fillinger as saying.

Mrs. Moyer, according to the affidavit, told police the boy was spanked three to four times a week during the first two months in the couple's custody.

When Mrs. Moyer spanked the child, according the affidavit, her hand would bruise and turn black and blue. She told police someone told her to use an "implement" to administer the disciplinary spankings, so she started using her husband's belt.

When Carlos was spanked, Mrs. Moyer told police, he was made to drop his pants and brace himself against a bed.

"At first she didn't realize when she would hit him on the buttocks with the belt, his body was so small the belt was wrapping around his abdomen and striking not only in the buttocks but half way around his body," a police investigator wrote in the affidavit.

The affidavit contains statements from the Moyers about what happened the day before the boy's death. However, the two parents disagree in their statements about exactly what happened.

According to Mrs. Moyer, she struck the boy in the face after he vomited for a second time that evening, and the blow raised a blue-purple bruise over the boy's right eye.

"I lost my cool," she told police.

She said her husband came home from work that night and struck the boy in the face with his hand.

Peter Moyer, according to the affidavit, said the boy had been a disciplinary problem during the last 2 1/2 months. He said Carlos would urinate and defecate in his pants and intentionally make himself vomit.

Each time the boy would soil himself or vomit, Moyer said, he was spanked.

While Moyer said he spanked Carlos on different occasions, he denied striking him in the face the day before the boy's death.

Moyer said upon his return home that evening, he saw the boy's bruised eye. His wife informed him Carlos had vomited on the floor, the affidavit says.

Carlos continued to vomit during the night, according to Mr. Moyer's statement, so a thin mattress and some towels were placed in a bathtub, where the boy was put to bed for the night.

The next morning, the affidavit says, the boy complained of being hot. He was sweating and his stomach was heaving.

Mrs. Moyer told police Carlos was put in his bed, and she left the home without seeking any medical help for him.

At about 11:30 that morning, Moyer said he checked on Carlos and found him cold and lifeless. Moyer said he summoned help, and within minutes the Souderton Community Ambulance and township police arrived.

Fillinger reported the boy's bowel had ruptured 24-36 hours prior to death as a result of a blow or blows to the abdomen, causing a large amount of hemorrhaging.

One neighbor, who spoke only on condition she not be identified, said on at least one occasion she briefly took care of the Moyers' three children while Mrs. Moyer ran an errand. She said the couple's daughters and Carlos "were as good as gold" while they played in her house.

When Mrs. Moyer returned to the neighbor's home, the neighbor said, "one of the girls got noisy and she (Mrs. Moyer) said in a quiet tone, only 'Laura'." The woman said the girl immediately behaved.

The woman, who several weeks ago attended a toy demonstration at the Moyers' home, said, "They've tried everything to treat those children like good parents should. They took the kids to church regularly."

Libby Kernen, another neighbor, said Carlos used to "constantly stand at the fence and smile."

Her 11-year-old son, she said, would try to teach the boy English while he learned a little Spanish.

"I never saw them (the Moyers) hit any of their kids," she said, but added she heard them "holler a lot."

The Moyer family would visit the Kernens during the summer, and their families would swim together in the Kernens' backyard pool, Mrs. Kernen said.

She described the family as being "basically quiet. They stick to themselves and don't bother anybody."

"It's weird," she added, "they always wanted a boy."

The couple's daughters were taken into protective custody last Thursday by Montgomery County Children and Youth Services.

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