Jail bars

A man who spent two decades in state prison for the 1992 rape of a 17-month-old Johnstown girl has now been accused of raping and attempting to kill another young child in Altoona, according to authorities there.

Ferdy Antar Crutcher, 45, was arrested Thursday night by Altoona police and charged with rape, attempted homicide and other felonies in connection with the alleged Aug. 11 attack on a 15-month-old Altoona boy.

Altoona police wrote in a criminal complaint that the boy was reported missing from his family’s Lexington Avenue apartment at around 3:30 a.m. Aug 11 and was found injured soon afterward in a nearby alley. He was flown by helicopter to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The child sustained what a Children’s Hospital doctor told an Altoona detective were “near-fatal” injuries, including bleeding and bruising to the face, numerous scratch marks and handprint-shaped bruises on his shoulders and upper arms, according to the complaint.

DNA evidence was collected and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national DNA database created and maintained by the FBI, and on Wednesday Altoona police were notified that the system had returned a match with Crutcher’s DNA, according to the complaint.

When an Altoona police detective met with Crutcher and asked him to explain how his DNA wound up at the crime scene, Crutcher allegedly claimed that he had arrived at the Lexington Avenue apartment to find the boy severely beaten, covered in blood and crying.

Crutcher allegedly claimed that he then had sex with the child’s grandmother at her invitation and that, afterwards, she ordered him to take the boy outside and leave him in the alley. He said he did as he was told, smearing some of the child’s blood on a wall of the alley in order to create “a fake crime scene,” according to the complaint.

Crutcher allegedly attempted to suggest that the boy’s grandmother had framed him and planted his DNA at the crime scene in order to send him back to prison because of his status as a sex offender. However, the detective wrote in the complaint that Crutcher “could not provide a logical explanation as to why she would beat her own grandson so severely that he needed to be life-flighted to UPMC Children’s Hospital as a means to set him up for a Megan’s Law violation.”

Crutcher, of the 1900 block of 14th Avenue, Altoona, faces charges of attempted homicide, rape of a child, aggravated assault, kidnapping and aggravated indecent assault of a child, all first-degree felonies, court records indicate. He has also been charged with failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements, a second-degree felony.

Crutcher was arraigned Thursday night by District Judge Daniel DeAntonio, of Altoona. He has been denied bail and remains confined at Blair County Prison. Court records indicate that he has requested that a public defender be appointed to represent him.

The Tribune-Democrat’s archives show that Crutcher pleaded guilty in 1993 to attacking a 17-month-old girl on July 26, 1992, inside her family’s home in Johnstown’s Kernville section.

The girl was severely injured; surgeons spent hours working to save her life. Linda Weaver, who was then the chief of the Johnstown Police Department, told reporters shortly after the attack that the girl sustained some of the most severe injuries she’d ever seen inflicted on a child.

Crutcher, who at the time was 18 years old and lived on Pine Street in the city’s Hornerstown section, was a friend of the girl’s parents and was visiting them when he attacked her in a second-floor bedroom.

Although he initially maintained he’d been framed by the girl’s father and coerced into confessing by Johnstown police, he later admitted in open court that he was guilty and pleaded guilty to felony rape, telling Judge F. Joseph Leahey that he realized he needed to be punished and wanted psychological help to keep him from reoffending in the future.

“I don’t know why I did this to the baby,” he wrote in a handwritten confession, according to a contemporary article in The Tribune-Democrat. “I think I need help.”

Leahey sentenced Crutcher in 1993 to spend eight to 20 years in prison on the rape charge – and tacked on a consecutive sentence of three months to two years on an unrelated charge of indecent assault. The latter charge was filed after Crutcher grabbed a woman at a fast-food restaurant in downtown Johnstown.

“You are a danger to society and you should be kept out of society for as long as possible,” Leahey told Crutcher as he handed down the sentence, according to a contemporary report in The Tribune-Democrat.

Crutcher himself acknowledged to Altoona police that the attack on the Altoona boy was similar in several respects to the 1992 crime to which he pleaded guilty, according to the Blair County criminal complaint.

“During the course of the interview,” the detective wrote in the complaint, “Crutcher referenced his arrest in 1992 in Cambria County for the rape of a 17-month-old child. Crutcher chronicled the events from that arrest in great detail and blamed it on drug use. Crutcher compared the similarities of that arrest to this case, but added that he wasn’t responsible for the rape of (the 15-month-old boy).”

Susan McNaughton, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, wrote in an email Friday afternoon that Crutcher spent more than 21 years in state prison on his 1992 rape conviction, from March 31, 1993, to his maximum sentence expiration date, Sept. 8, 2014. He was released from SCI-Retreat in Luzerne County.

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.

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