A former teacher at Tender Care Learning Center in Scott pleaded guilty to 13 cases involving child molestation and child pornography this morning in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Matthew K. Byars, 26, was sentenced to 35 to 70 years in prison for his actions abusing 12 boys, ranging in age from 6 to 17 years old. He also must register for life as a sex offender.
The families of the boys agreed to the plea deal in part to end the case quickly and avoid having them testify.
"We made an offer that will not victimize these boys any further," said Deputy District Attorney Laura Ditka. "But no one in this room thinks it's long enough."
Judge Donna Jo McDaniel agreed.
"If it were up to me, personally, I'd give you every day of the 664 years I feel you deserve," she said.
The judge commended the boys and their families for being brave and coming forward about the abuse.
"Today is not the end of what's gone on, but I hope it's a new beginning," Judge McDaniel said.
She also told the parents they should not feel responsible for what happened.
"You did the best you could," she said. "You sent them to a place you believed was safe."
Mr. Byars began working at the daycare center in 2007.
According to Ms. Ditka, Mr. Byars molested seven boys he taught at Tender Care, met the cousin of a boy there who he also abused, and molested two other boys.
He befriended the boys at the daycare, as well as their families, and often took them on outings, organized pickup hockey games, brought them to his church and invited them to sleepovers at his home.
In some instances, the boys were fondled and photographed or recorded on video. In others, they were forced into sex acts or sexually assaulted, Ms. Ditka said.
"Thirty-five years is generous," she said.
Speaking briefly, Mr. Byars apologized.
"I do realize the affect of my actions on so many people," he said. "I truly am sorry."
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.