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Therapist testifies during pretrial hearing in neglect case

November 2, 2018 GMT

Four siblings of a 2-year-old girl who died in January told a therapist their mother’s boyfriend was abusive.

In court Friday, therapist Staci Rader said each of the children told her Shane A. Patton regularly hit them, placed his hand over their mouths and wrapped JoJo Belcher so tightly in blankets she couldn’t move when he put her to bed.

Patton, 31, is charged with two counts of neglect in JoJo’s death. The girl’s mother, Crystal Belcher, 29, also is facing felony neglect charges.

Rader said one of the siblings, a girl named April, saw her sister change when Belcher started dating Patton.

“She said that JoJo was like a little light and when Shane came into the picture, that light went out,” she testified.

Emergency workers called to the family’s Butler Street home in late January found JoJo wrapped in a blanket and “cold to the touch with rigor mortis,” according to court documents. An autopsy revealed a hemorrhage in her neck, a probable cause affidavit states.

Patton was charged in Allen Superior Court in April, and he was arrested last month. Belcher also was charged in April. Both are being held at the Allen County Jail.

Rader spoke in a hearing in which she was asked whether the children should testify in open court during Belcher’s trial, which is scheduled to start Jan. 15. She recommended April testify in open court but told Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Pikel doing so would be harmful to the other three children.

For more on this story, see Saturday’s print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 1 a.m. Saturday.