ZARA Scruggs should have celebrated her first birthday today surrounded by loving family and friends.
There might have been cake, giggles, happy snaps, games, toys, and other children to play with.
Instead, her father Austin Stevens, 29, appeared by video link in a Pennsylvania court for his preliminary hearing, charged with the 10-month-old baby’s rape and murder.
Stevens, an assistant youth football coach for Lower Providence Warriors, has been charged with first, second, and third-degree murder, rape of a child, aggravated assault, and other related charges.
Wearing a red jumpsuit and black face mask, he watched on from jail as two police witnesses testified separately.
The court heard that Stevens called 911 to report an unresponsive child around 10.40 pm on October 3, approximately an hour after the alleged assault at his residence.
Officer Eric Honick, who responded to the call, told the court he entered the second-story apartment where he saw “Zara laying on the bed … with no clothes on”.
“She was in only a diaper and Mr Stevens was standing at foot of the bed,” Honick said.
“She was unresponsive. Her skin was gray. I picked her up and put her on the floor to begin CPR. She was cold to touch.”
As Honick fought to save the little girl’s life, he asked Stevens to pass him a piece of medical equipment from his bag. He testified that Stevens handed him the wrong item, then “tilted (his head) and shrugged”.
“(He did it) as if he was helping me find a tool in the garage,” Honick told the court.
“It was completely mundane.”
Honick said paramedics soon arrived and started treating Zara in an ambulance.
The court heard the officer then turned to Stevens and asked, “what happened?”.
“He said he was bathing Zara,” Honick said.
“He said he stepped out to make a drink in the kitchen, he heard a thud, Zara began crying and he went back into the bathroom.
“He said he took her out of the tub and brought her into his bedroom and tried to comfort her by rubbing her body until she eventually calmed down.
“He said after he rubbed her body, her head tilted down and she became unresponsive. He said he immediately called police.”