HARRISBURG, Pa. – A couple charged in the starvation death of their 9-year-old son were ordered Thursday to stand trial on charges of criminal homicide after a hearing in which a police detective described discovering the child's decomposing body.
Harrisburg District Judge Barbara Pianka also ordered Kimberly and Jarrod Tutko Sr., to remain held without bail following a 90-minute preliminary hearing in a cramped courtroom at Dauphin County Prison.
Police who found the body of Jarrod Tutko Jr. on Aug. 1 said the boy, who had a genetic disorder with autism-like symptoms, lived in a locked, feces-smeared room on the third floor of the family's Harrisburg home, they said.
Rodney Shoeman, a city police detective who responded to the 911 call that night and interviewed both parents about the circumstances of the boy's death, said he detected "a strong odor of decomposition" when he got out of his car and approached the house where the Tutkos and their six children lived.
Kimberly Tutko told the detective she tried to combat the stench with mothballs and bleach, thinking it came from dead mice, but it was futile. It wasn't until she asked her husband about the smell on Aug. 1 that he revealed Jarrod Jr., had died. Shoeman said.
"There's something wrong with him. He passed away a couple days ago," Shoeman said the wife quoted her husband as saying.
Police found the boy's body wrapped in a sheet in a second-floor bathroom. An autopsy concluded that he died of malnutrition and neglect. He weighed less than 17 pounds.
Kimberly Tutko told Shoeman she had been the primary caregiver for at least one of the other children, who also had special medical needs, but that caring for Jarrod Jr. was exclusively the father's responsibility. The mother said she had not seen the boy for several days before he died
Jarrod Jr. died during a two-day period in which the father and son did not interact, Shoeman said. Jarrod Sr. told the detective he tried to resuscitate the child using CPR and at one point exclaimed, "Don't leave me, buddy!" But "he didn't indicate that he did anything" to report the death, the detective said.
The Tutkos, dressed in yellow prison-issue shirts and restrained by handcuffs and shackles, sat next to their court-appointed lawyers at the hearing but did not speak.
Kimberly Tutko, 39, is charged with criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of children. Jarrod Tutko Sr., 38, faces the same charges as well as concealing the death of a child and abuse of a corpse.
Kimberly Tutko told investigators that neither parent had a job. She said they collected state disability payments totaling $2,840 for Jarrod Jr., two of his siblings and their father, as well as $351 in food stamps.