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Two bound for trial in Tyrone child endangerment case

Earlier this week, the parents of two children were bound over to the Blair County Court of Common Pleas on child endangerment charges.
Adam L. and Andora K. Gardner were charged last year after an investigation that involved several agencies. The case stems from a complaint regarding several animals and reptiles at a duplex in Tyrone.
Police went to a residence at 326 W. 15th Street after being contacted by Tyrone Borough code enforcement officer Tom Lang on Oct. 19.
A criminal complaint filed against the Gardners said police went there to assist Lang regarding code violations on one side of the duplex.
The complaint said officers contacted Adam Gardner who refused to let authorities into the residence. Police said he stated he didn’t live at the residence.
The complaint noted Gardner was separated from his wife and he was at the residence taking a nap. Police said Andora Gardner arrived at the scene a short time later and let authorities into the residence.
Representatives from several agencies testified at the preliminary hearing before Magisterial Judge Fred Miller.
Lang, Tyrone police officer Jessica Barlick, Robert Beck, a state dog warden, a state game commission representative and a Children and Youth Services representative were among those present for the hearing. Prosecutor Terry Tomassetti laid out the case for the Blair County District Attorney’s office.
Tomassetti said, “Our witnesses indicated there were children at the residence.”
He said CYS had contact with the family in July and August. Photographs also indicated the residence was inhabited by children according to Tomassetti.
Altoona attorney Thomas Dickey represented the Gardners. He contended the children were not living at the residence at the time authorities investigated the complaint about the animals. After the hearing, he told The Daily Herald the children, ages eight and five, were living with their grandmother at the time.
He said there had been ongoing issues regarding water service at the residence between the tenant and the landlord. He said the family had already moved out of the residence although the animals remained there at the time of the Oct. 19 investigation.
He noted the prosecution’s burden of proof is low at a preliminary hearing and said he will ask to have the charges dismissed at the county court level.
According to the criminal complaint, officer Barlick said a smell of feces inside the residence “was so strong it was hard for officers to breathe.” A large amount of garbage was also observed on the porch.
The police complaint noted authorities saw many animals at the residence. The complaint said they included seven cats, three dogs, two red-ear sliders, two gerbils, one house gecko, 11 feeder mice, one dwarf hamster, five feeder rats, one guinea pig, one snyder slink, two parakeets, two exotic birds, one squirrel, one turtle and numerous lizards and snakes.
Other details noted in the complaint against the Gardners included an observation of feces on the floor of the residence, the bed and children’s toys. Litter boxes were said to be overflowing and the carpet was animal-stained. A dead rat was found behind the toilet in a bathroom. Cats were observed eating cat food from the kitchen table. Animal cages with dirty water were noted throughout the residence. Police said the odor of the residence was strong enough that it could be smelled outside. Police said the house was infested with fleas and flies. The backyard was littered with dog feces.
According to the criminal complaint, officer Barlick spoke with a Children and Youth Services worker who told her the children resided at the side of the duplex that was investigated. Police said the Gardners had previously been advised to clean up the residence by CYS.
The residence was found to be “unfit for human occupancy” and condemned by the borough on Oct. 20. The Gardners were told they could no longer occupy it.
The condemnation came about because of the “sanitary conditions” or lack thereof at the residence. The owner of the building, Dennis Fink, was issued the condemnation notice. According to borough code, the building owner is responsible for bringing the structure back into compliance.
In addition to the child endangerment charges, Andora Gardner also was issued summary offenses regarding violations concerning the animals.
Prosecutor Tomassetti said Judge Miller “made the right decision” in binding the case over to county court. He said the child endangerment charge was “a serious matter” and the DA’s office would “continue to prosecute it vigorously.”
He said the charge was a level 5 misdemeanor. He said if the charges were proven and the convicted party had no prior record they could receive anywhere from probation to up to nine months in jail based on usual sentencing guidelines.
He said he did not expect further activity in the case at the county level for at least 40 days. Tomassetti said it could be several months before any trial if the case reaches that level.