The father has claimed he is innocent and that his daughter hit her head against the bathtub
Trigger Warning: The story has details of sexual and physical assault of a minor that readers may find disturbing
A father has been arrested for allegedly raping his 10-month-old daughter, Zara Scruggs. The baby tragically died from her injuries at a hospital later. Austin Stevens, 29, of Providence Township, Pennsylvania, was charged on numerous counts including "aggravated sexual assault, rape of a child, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, endangering the welfare of a child and other criminal counts" following her death. According to the Daily Mail, a statement released by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office confirms that Lowe Providence police responded to a call at 3400 block of Germantown Road after reports of an unresponsive infant came to their notice.
Father arrested on sex assault, aggravated assault charges in death of 10-month-old child in Montgomery County. A search warrant of Austin Stevens' phone showed that he had conducted multiple Google searches: 'How do you know if a baby is dead' https://t.co/i1zmCSqKpf— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) October 7, 2020
Officers quickly performed CPR on the infant and moved her to the Einstein Medical Center Montgomery but she was pronounced dead less than two hours later. A search warrant was obtained so authorities could download the contents from Stevens' phone. There, they discovered that he had done several Google searches for an hour before calling 911 for help. According to the prosecutors, his online searches revealed that he had Googled the following: "If baby stop breathing," '"What if you don’t hear baby heart or beat," "My baby isn’t breathing," and "How do you know if a baby is dead." In addition, Stevens had also allegedly exchanged texts and personal messages with two women without mentioning his daughter's grim situation.
When police searched his apartment, they found a diaper Scruggs wore during her alleged rape. Police also noted that the diaper was "saturated with blood." Kevin Steele, Montgomery County District Attorney termed the attack "heinous" and added: "This case is deeply disturbing. It is hard to imagine this child’s death being any more traumatic: sexual assault on an infant, followed by inaction by the father to save her life, led to her death." The autopsy on the infant concluded that she had sustained blunt force trauma to the head and anal rectal trauma.
Phoenixville News reports that Stevens has claimed innocence. He had allegedly left her unattended after giving her a bath and had gone to the kitchen. He then told detectives that he heard a "bang." This he believed that it was his daughter hitting her head against the bathtub. When he returned, he removed the infant from the tub, and placed her on the bed, and watched her become unresponsive. He then googled how to do CPR and attempted to resuscitate her before calling the authorities.
#AustinStevens was an assistant youth football coach for Lower Providence Warriors. An autopsy revealed #ZaraScruggs was sexually assaulted and also sustained blunt force trauma to her head. @MontcopaDA says he could face more charges.https://t.co/Inj6FsFeJB— Jamie Forzato (@jamieforzato) October 6, 2020
According to ABC6, the 29-year-old is the co-owner of a construction company and also served as an assistant coach for the Lower Providence Warriors youth football team. He had joint custody of Scruggs with her mother, Erica Scruggs, who took to Facebook after the incident came to light and wrote: "I’m not okay. I really have no words ... He will pay."
Brionna Cassaundra Wise, a relative, launched a GoFundMe campaign to help the grieving mother which has so far raised more than $52,000 against the $25,000 target. "In 10 short months, she sparked so much joy," the page read. "She was smart. She was silly. She was sassy. She was perfect. She was a beautiful baby and brought so much beauty into hundreds of lives. She brought us together, and we will fight for her forever."