Crime

Couple faces child abuse charges in Centre County after police received multiple reports

Recognizing signs of physical child abuse

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year.
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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year.

Spring Township police filed felony charges Thursday against a former Centre County couple after the department received multiple reports of child abuse.

The investigation began in August when Centre County Children and Youth Services examined an infant with “severe” bruising on its legs, according to a criminal complaint filed by police.

Garrett Gunsallus, 23, of Centre Hall, and Ashley Gunsallus, 30, of Bellefonte, declined to speak with police about the investigation in September and said they wanted to speak with a lawyer, a detective wrote in the complaint.

Police received a letter from pediatrics professor at Penn State’s Center for the Protection of Children in March who said the bruising was from child abuse, not a dermatological issue. The professor also said the infant was nutritionally neglected, police wrote in the complaint.

About two weeks after police received the letter, Ashley Gunsallus spoke with police and said Garrett Gunsallus moved the infant’s legs in a bicycle motion to expel gas. She told him he was “doing it too hard and that it was hurting (the child),” but did not do anything to stop him, according to the complaint.

A second CYS caseworker called police in April after a mandatory reporter said he watched Garrett Gunsallus fill a bottle with Natural Light beer, put formula on top and gave the bottle to a toddler. The toddler drank the whole bottle, police wrote in the complaint.

The witness said Garrett Gunsallus “thought that it was funny and laughed when the child began to drink the beer and formula concoction” in the fall, according to the complaint.

Both children were placed in protective custody after the initial report, police said on Facebook.

A Mount Nittany Pediatrics physician in June said the bruising on the infant was a “clear sign of child abuse” and required a “very significant” amount of force. She also said the alcohol would have a “catastrophic” impact on the toddler, according to the complaint.

An attorney was not listed for either Garrett or Ashley Gunsallus.

Garrett Gunsallus was charged with two felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one misdemeanor count of simple assault. Ashley Gunsallus was charged with one felony count of endangering the welfare of a child.

Each was arraigned Monday by District Judge Thomas Jordan, who set bail at $20,000 unsecured.

Each has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 7.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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