Prosecutors skip deposition of girl, 5, in abuse case focused on adopted siblings

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The Allegheny County District Attorney's office will not take the deposition of a 5-year-old girl who may be a witness against her parents in a case involving abuse of their adopted children.

Deputy District Attorney Laura Ditka planned to take a videotaped deposition of the girl this morning for possible use against her parents, Douglas and Kristen Barbour, on charges they abused two children they adopted last year from Ethiopia.

Ms. Ditka told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning this morning, however, that she did not want to scare the child.

"I think this child is very frightened today, and I think we'd do more harm than good," Ms. Ditka said. "If these people will give us assurances, we don't need to damage the child."

The Barbours have asked the court to allow them to be reunited with their biological children, who were removed from them after criminal charges were filed last fall.

Judge Manning said they could be returned, but he ordered that the girl's testimony be preserved first. Ms. Ditka had raised concerns that the child could be a witness against her parents, and that if she were returned to their custody, they could influence her testimony.

Under questioning in court, both Mrs. and Mr. Barbour told the court they would not discuss the case in any way with their daughter.

Mr. Barbour is a Pennsylvania deputy attorney general.

Trial is scheduled for July 9. The couple is accused of withholding food from their 6-year-old adopted son, as well as causing head trauma to their adopted daughter, who was then 19 months.

They are not accused of abusing their biological children.

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Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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