Courts: Children and Youth Agencies have 'no duty to protect' kids
In a Pennsylvania county where a 7-year-old Russian boy recently died, officials and judges often ignore serious mental illnesses and don't heed the sound advice of doctors or psychologists
All too often this ends in tragedy for a child, or others
Such was the 1982 case of 4-year-old Aleta Bailey
In the pages of York PA's Daily Record in 1982 Larry Hake (top) was presented before trial as a 'Mad Dog,' though he was ruled not insane; Jo Ellen Bailey (center right), Aleta's mom, was portrayed as a woman with serious legal problems. Caseworker Bev Mackereth (bottom), who returned Aleta Bailey to the troubled home, today is executive director of York County Human Services, in charge of Children and Youth
By Bill Keisling
Posted March 25, 2010 --A little after 10 in the morning of January 12, 1982, Beverley Mackereth arrived at Jo Ellen Bailey's mobile home.
Bev Mackereth at the time was a caseworker with the York County, Pennsylvania, Children and Youth Services.
Accompanying Mackereth was Detective Daniel Garber of the Northern Regional Police Department.
They'd come to investigate reports of possible child abuse involving Jo Ellen Bailey's four-year-old daughter, Aleta.
Mackereth was a young caseworker, in her mid-twenties. Well known and popular around town, most people to this day call her Bev.
Bev Mackereth had graduated from Frostburg State University in 1979, with a degree in psychology and sociology. She'd been on the job for about two years at York County Children and Youth Services when she knocked on Jo Ellen Bailey's door.
"We had received a call the previous night, in fact, two calls, with referrals from Sergeant Segetti from Northern Regional and one from Childline, where the child's aunt had called and I was assigned the case the following day," Mackereth would later recall. "The referral stated that Aleta had bruises on her buttocks."
Jo Ellen's mobile home was located in a trailer park on Pine Road, outside of Dover.
Living in the trailer with Jo Ellen and little Aleta was Jo Ellen's boyfriend, Larry Hake. Hake and Jo Ellen Bailey were both 26 years old.
Larry Hake was well known to the police in the York area. He was seemingly always in and out of trouble. "You could tell just talking to Larry Hake that he had some screws loose," one former York policeman tells me. "He wasn't very well educated. He had blond hair, medium length, and a pockmarked face. He stood about 5 foot 11 eleven inches, and had a husky build. Maybe about 180 pounds."
Another policeman, in 1982, noted that Hake "is quite muscular."
Larry Hake "had a loud mouth, a big mouth," the retired policeman tells me. Hake was known, among other things, for threatening policemen.
"In fact," Mackereth recalls, Hake previously "threatened the life of Detective Garber. That's why I brought (Det. Garber) along to the house, because I was fearful for my own safety."
Mackereth and Det. Garber waited outside the trailer. "Mr. Hake answered the door and I asked to speak with Mrs. Bailey. She came out and I introduced myself," Mackereth says. She "did invite me in, however, she was very resistant to my being there."
They went inside. The trailer was narrow and long. They were standing in the living room, with the kitchen to the right.
Inside the trailer, Mackereth saw, were "Mr. Hake, Mrs. Bailey, Aleta, and another man who I don't know."
Aleta was just four years old. Relatives and neighbors knew her as a cheerful, active child. She liked to entertain herself. She liked to color in her coloring books. She liked to twirl her baton. For a while, before money got tight, she took baton lessons. Also in the trailer was a litter of poodle puppies. Aleta liked to play with the puppies.
On first sight, this morning, Aleta seemed fine.
Detective Dan Garber remembers standing in the trailer that day. "Beverly Mackereth said to Jo Ellen that she had received a complaint of child abuse alleging that Aleta had been bruised, and she asked if she could examine Aleta," Officer Garber says. "Jo Ellen consented to this, and Beverly Mackereth took Aleta and Jo Ellen (and) went back to the (bedroom) out of my sight."
Mackereth says, "I then took Aleta into her bedroom and talked with her about Mr. Hake and, you know, saw if she had any injuries."
Aleta stood before Mackereth. Calmly, as only a child can, Aleta displayed her hidden wounds.
A vision of a broken angel moved before Bev Mackereth. It was an image that Bev Mackereth tells me she still remembers to this day.
These clearly were no ordinary boo-boos.
Aleta Bailey trial testimony downloads:
All docs are in PDF format. Right click on link to download pdf to your hard drive
Aleta "pulled her tights down and I saw linear bruises across her rear end, on her lower back and around her upper thighs," Bev Mackereth remembers. "She also showed me on her arm where she had marks (that) looked like finger marks. She told me Mr. Hake had held her and grabbed her there. Okay, it was on both arms she showed them."
Mackereth asked Jo Ellen about the injuries. Hake had "disciplined" the child for wetting her bed, Jo Ellen told Bev Mackereth matter-of-factly.
"I thought probably there were two beatings because of Mrs. Bailey's surprised reaction to the extensive bruising on her daughter," Mackereth says. "When questioned, Aleta said that there was only one. Mrs. Bailey said she didn't know." Mackereth would add, "I felt it might have been two."
"Several minutes later," Detective Garber says, Bev Mackereth "came back out and told me that there were severe bruises on the girl's backside and she felt the child should be taken to the hospital for treatment. I said, 'Okay, if we have to take her out, we will.'"
Larry Hake, for his part, didn't seem at all concerned about Aleta's injuries. He seemed "nonchalant," Mackereth recalls.
"I told Mr. Hake I knew. I asked him if he had beaten the child or disciplined her," Mackereth says. Hake said he beat her one time. "Mr. Hake said, yeah, he did. He had beaten her with a belt for wetting the bed, for lying. In talking with him, I told him I felt the beating was excessive. He was very nonchalant about the whole thing. He felt the beating was not excessive and that she deserved it."
"As I said, he was just kind of nonchalant about the whole thing, like it was no big deal."
"Beverly then said to Jo Ellen Bailey that she felt that the child was in need of immediate medical treatment and that we wanted to take her to the hospital," Detective Garber recalls. "Jo Ellen was somewhat reluctant to let us do that. Beverley became more insistent and said, 'We are taking Aleta out, and we are going to take her to the hospital for treatment.' At that point Jo Ellen consented to go along, and we all left in Beverley's car."
Bev Mackereth would later say that the purpose of taking Aleta to the hospital was not just to treat the little girl.
"It is procedure at our agency whenever a child has any marks of any kind, they are taken to the hospital to have the injuries documented," Mackereth explains. "So, I proceeded -- I went out and talked with Mrs. Bailey for a while. I talked with Mr. Hake and then I took Mrs. Bailey and Aleta to the hospital, to York Hospital."
She adds, "I felt the bruising needed to be documented and looked at."
When Bev Mackereth was later asked, in court, "had it been your child, would you have taken her to a doctor?"
"Yes," Bev replied.
In the car on the ride through the winter countryside of York County, from Dover Township to York Hospital, with Detective Garber in the car, Bev Mackereth asked Jo Ellen whether she was aware of Larry Hake's violent criminal record. "I told her that on the way to the hospital," Mackereth says. "She said it was a side of his personality that she had never seen. She said he wasn't like that."
"She said she didn't know it until I told her," Mackereth says, but Jo Ellen Bailey didn't seem troubled by the news of Hake's violent past. "In fact, I told her that (Hake) had threatened the life of Detective Garber." This too didn't seem to trouble Jo Ellen.
Doctor says he orders 'no possibility' of contact with Hake
Emergency room physician Dr. Merrill Cohen examined Aleta that morning at York Hospital. Dr Cohen says he was alarmed by what he saw.
"There were on the buttocks merging bruises that were purplish in color without any associated swelling or tenderness, and this was on both buttocks," Dr. Cohen remembered. "In addition, some of these bruises extended up onto the lower part of the back, extending off of the buttocks a little bit further up onto the back. Some of these bruises had a certain pattern to them: they were linear, and also some of them had the shape of a loop, as if, for example, the child had been struck by a strap. It is very common to see a loop-type injury on the buttocks after having been disciplined."
"It was more than a 'good licking,'" recounts Dr. Cohen. He asked Jo Ellen what had happened.
She told the doctor that her boyfriend "had disciplined the child several days earlier because of, I believe, she said that this child was wetting the bed."
"She said that she was aware that the boyfriend had a tendency to discipline the child excessively, and she was aware that he did chastise more than was necessary."
In his medical report from the examination that day, dated January 12, 1982, Dr. Cohen wrote, "Mother is separated from husband (father of child) and has a boyfriend living with them now. About three days ago, mother heard boyfriend striking the child with a belt, apparently for wetting bed. Mother rebuked boyfriend for doing same. He said he wouldn't do it again. Yesterday mother again saw child's bottom and noted more extensive bruises than she thought there had been; also others on wrist which she thinks are more recent and suspects the boyfriend has struck child again since. Brought to E.R. to document injuries. Apparently the police are aware of boyfriend from previous incidents."
Dr. Merrill says he told Jo Ellen that he would immediately order Aleta removed from her home if Larry Hake didn't move out.
Dr. Cohen explains his position clearly: "I was so concerned about the extent of the bruising that I was ready to remove the child from the custody of the mother."
He came to this conclusion, he'd later say, "Because I thought that the discipline was more extensive than one would normally see from simply having chastised the child -- the extent of the discolorations, the bruising on the buttocks, the fact that it extended beyond the buttocks onto the back, and the fact that there were also bruises on the forearms led me to believe that there was some danger to the child and that the child would be better protected if there was no possibility of further contact with the boyfriend."
Dr. Merrill was unequivocal on this point: Hake must be removed from the home, or the doctor would immediately order Aleta into county custody.
"I told the mother that I was very much concerned about the future health of this child in the presence of the boyfriend who was disciplining the child excessively, and that it would be necessary that the child have no further contact with this boyfriend, and that it would be essential that the boyfriend no longer have access to the child by which he could further discipline the child, and that if the boyfriend were not removed from the home, then it would be necessary to take the child into custody at that time."
Months later, at trial, under oath, Dr. Cohen would testify that he reiterated this to Bev Mackereth of Children and Youth Services. "...There were some discussions between the social worker and myself in the hall outside of the room where the mother and the child were," Dr. Cohen recounts.
"I left the social worker and the mother to consider some possibilities together," Dr. Cohen relates. "I left them in the room, and the result of the discussion between the social worker and the mother was that the child would be, for her sake, placed in the home of a relative until arrangements could be made between the mother and Children's Services for the boyfriend to be taken away from the home...."
The great compromise
Something about the doctor's simple order quickly became lost in translation in York County bureaucracy.
Mackereth today says she remembers the doctor's instructions differently from Dr. Cohen's court testimony, and even her own court testimony.
At trial in 1982, Mackereth was asked, under oath:
Q: Did the doctor clearly tell Mrs. Bailey about Mr. Hake not having access to the child?
Mackereth: Yes. He felt it would be dangerous for Aleta to be alone with Mr. Hake, and that Aleta needed protection.
Mackereth, however, today says she did not hear the part where the doctor insisted that Hake have "no access to the child."
Mackereth instead, then and now, for some reason interpreted Dr. Cohen's admonition to mean that Hake simply should not be left alone with Aleta, out of her mother's presence.
In an interview for this article in March 2010, Bev Mackereth denied that Dr. Cohen ever told her that Hake should have "no access" to Aleta. This contradicts Mackereth's own sworn testimony from November 1982."He never told me that. Maybe he said that to Jo Ellen," Mackereth tells me.
I pointed out to Mackereth that Dr. Cohen in 1982 testified at two separate trials, each time, under oath, reaffirming his instructions. At Jo Ellen Bailey's trial in November 1982, Dr. Cohen made the statements above that, "it would be essential that the boyfriend no longer have access to the child," and so on.
In September 1982, at Larry Hake's trial, Dr. Cohen was asked:
Q: Did you express an opinion as to whether the force or the conduct used to cause bruising like this should be permitted to continue?
Dr. Cohen: Yes, I explained to the mother and also to the social worker from Children's Services that I was concerned about the amount of force that had been applied and that this was an inordinate degree of discipline and that the child should not be permitted to return to the home where the person, the boyfriend of the mother was living and that it would be necessary that the child be placed in some other residence so as to be spared the possibility of further abuse." (Emphasis added.)
When asked about this discrepancy, Mackereth told me, "I don't remember that." Mackereth went on to tell me, twice, that her recollection was that she had been more concerned about Aleta's condition and welfare that day than was Dr. Cohen.
Mackereth then told me that trial transcripts are unreliable because, she says, "What happens in court is one-sided -- everybody knows that."
Mackereth then tells me that she hasn't reviewed the Aleta Bailey case in decades. "It was 27 years ago!" she said. "Why are you dredging up this case now?" she asked me.
The answer seemed obvious to me. A child had been killed, supposedly under the care of her agency. Today that child would be 33 years old, and couldn't speak for herself, or question officials.
The question is just as pertinent today as it was in 1982: Are York County officials acting responsibly and competently to protect kids?
Back in 1982, the discrepancy regarding Dr. Cohen's instructions and Bev Mackereth's implementation of those instructions had severe ramifications for Aleta.
The bottom line was this: Instead of denying Larry Hake all access to Aleta, Mackereth instead allowed Hake access to Aleta so long as Jo Ellen Bailey was present, and with the added stipulation that Hake could not stay overnight.
This would turn out to be another critical misjudgment: that Aleta would be safe with her mother, Jo Ellen.
In reality, Aleta Bailey would have no sanctuary.
Larry Hake confides to Bev Mackereth:
He's 'unable to control himself'
That evening, January 12, 1982, Bev Mackereth worked out temporary arrangements for Aleta. Aleta would spend the night with Jo Ellen's aunt, Carol Adams. Larry Hake would move out of the trailer within 24 hours. Once Hake was gone, Jo Ellen would regain custody of Aleta.
In keeping with these arrangements, Larry Hake supposedly moved out the next day. He supposedly went back to a farm he called home, a place where, in reality, he'd only been staying a few months, if that.
The next evening, January 13, Children and Youth Services returned Aleta to Jo Ellen.
Also the next day, January 13, 1982, Bev Mackereth convened a meeting at the offices of Children and Youth Services.
Attending the meeting with Bev Mackereth were Jo Ellen Bailey, and Larry Hake. Today, a meeting like this might be called "Family Group Counseling." The idea basically is for everyone to sit down and rationally talk things over.
"Mrs. Bailey and Mr. Hake came into the office at that time," Mackereth told the court in September 1982. "This was basically to discuss the situation and to set up some sort of plan for Aleta. At the time, I talked with Mr. Hake about the injuries, how excessive they were, that it was an excessive beating, that there was excessive force used to make those kind of marks. He told me he did not feel -- he didn't know how to discipline a five- or four-year-old child. He told me he had a violent temper and we went into then how great the injuries could have been and how, you know, if he said he couldn't control his temper. So, we went into a lot about different things as far as how serious it could have been for him to discipline the child at all."
Then Larry Hake let slip something that should have set more alarm bells ringing.
Mackereth testified in court that Larry Hake "knew the use of excessive discipline or the use of excessive force, as he had used, could hurt the child severely. He also said that he was -- well, he was saying that he was unable to control himself and that he did have such a bad temper. So, we were saying if you do discipline her, you could seriously hurt her."
What Bev Mackereth did not understand at the time was that Larry Hake was a psychopath.
Indeed, Hake would certainly behave psychopathically toward little Aleta within a matter of weeks, if he hadn't already.
Should Bev Mackereth, holding as she did a degree in psychology and sociology, have suspected that sitting before her that day was a psychopath, someone with a dangerous mental illness or personality disorder?
In broad terms, as in Webster's dictionary, a psychopath is defined as "a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior."
Bev Mackereth obviously knew that Larry Hake had "a violent criminal past." Mackereth says she even warned Jo Ellen Bailey of this. She also knew that Hake had threatened the life of Det. Dan Garber. And with her own eyes she saw the violence already committed on Aleta by Hake.
What's a psychopath?
Scientific American reports that "psychopathy consists of a specific set of personality traits and behaviors. Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal." "They are well aware that their ill-advised or illegal actions are wrong in the eyes of society but shrug off these concerns with startling nonchalance."
Wikipedia notes, "researcher Robert Hare, whose Hare Psychopathy Checklist is widely used, describes psychopaths as "intraspecies predators"... "Elsewhere Hare and others write that psychopaths 'use charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexual intercourse and violence ... to control others and to satisfy their own needs.'"
In other words, four-year-old Aleta was Larry Hake's prey.
And Hake used sex as a means of controlling Aleta's mother.
There are popular, as well as clinical, definitions for psychopathy. The popular Wikipedia web site states that psychopathy is "a personality disorder characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy combined with abnormal immoral conduct despite an ability to appear normal."
Bev Mackereth would say that she had been struck that Larry Hake appeared "nonchalant" at having beaten Aleta. "As I said, he was just kind of nonchalant about the whole thing, like it was no big deal." In other words, Hake had already displayed a shocking lack of empathy toward Aleta.
Wikipedia continues that such behaviors, these days, are considered a type of personality disorder.
In March 2010, I remarked to Bev Mackereth, "It seems that Larry Hake was a psychopath."
"Well of course he was a psychopath!" Mackereth replied.
Why was a beaten child returned to a psychopath? I asked Mackereth. She had no ready reply.
In hindsight, Family Group Counseling was precisely what was not needed for Aleta's safety. While it's certainly valuable, in most cases, to have rational people sit down and talk things out, this approach will not work with people who are irrational, or mentally ill.
In Aleta's case, the signs of mental illness were there, they just weren't recognized or heeded. Larry Hake, for his part, even told Mackereth that he couldn't control himself.
What was needed for Aleta's safety was a strict reading of Dr. Cohen's testimony: that Larry Hake should have "no access" to Aleta. Period. End of story.
Instead, Hake would be allowed around Aleta if Jo Ellen were present.
Mackereth explained to the court in 1982: "it was agreed by all parties that Mr. Hake was to move out of the home. He was never to be left alone with the child, whether he was visiting or not, he was not to be left alone with that child. He was never to stay overnight because of the possibility that he would be asleep and Aleta would do something and he could physically harm her. It was agreed that he would be involved with protective services through our agency and receive some parenting skills should he decide to ever move back in that home and the mother would do all the disciplining of Aleta."
Elsewhere Mackereth explains her reasoning. "We felt (Jo Ellen) was capable of protecting that child," Bev Mackereth says. And, "I asked her specifically if (Hake) had ever abused her, and she said no, he never had. So we felt that she should and could have been able to protect her daughter.... Because she would be there; she would make sure he never disciplined the child again, and because she was not afraid of Hake, so we felt that she would not fear protecting her own daughter."
This would turn out to be a tragic, and fatal, error of judgment.
Jo Ellen clearly did not have Aleta's best interest at heart. And Mackereth knew that Jo Ellen had already shown no interest in taking Aleta to the hospital, and so on.
What's particularly alarming is that Aleta Bailey's case is not all that unusual in York County, Pennsylvania, even to this day.
While there is disagreement about what Beverley Mackereth says she was told by the doctor at the hospital in Aleta's case, in other instances involving serious mental illnesses York County officials and judges have simply ignored or not even sought the advise of medical or psychiatric experts. Often this ends in harm to a child, or others.
It's worth noting that York County unabashedly maintains a mercenary and politically motivated county court system in which those who can afford to pay for an insider lawyer expect, and receive, preferential treatment. Kids have no money for a well-connected lawyer in York County. And kids don't vote.
It's a problem of attitudes, not just procedures. Science and modern medicine are notoriously not held in high regard by some officials in York County.
'It's a problem of attitudes, not just procedures.
Kids have no money for a well-connected lawyer. And kids don't vote.'
"Finally, someone is standing up to those 'experts' with their 'facts' and stuff," longtime York Daily Record columnist Mike Argento wrote recently. Argento was poking fun at York County Dover Area School Board's infamous 2004 decision to ignore Darwin and Mendel in its science curriculum. It'd be hilarious if so many young people weren't getting hurt, or seeing their futures limited. Dover is just down the road from Jo Ellen Bailey's trailer.
In Germanic, authoritarian York, rather than gathering scientific or medical facts, officials prefer to simply "lay down the law," like Moses from on high with his tablets. They, after all, are the officials. They, after all, are the authorities.
Rather than dealing with mental illness within the proper framework of twentieth century medicine, York County officials prefer to handle grave psychiatric problems by issuing threats of legal retaliation.
In Aleta Bailey's case, in fact, Larry Hake would be issued a psychologist by York County only after catastrophe had struck: at his trial for murder. At trial, Dr. Allen Greenstein would share his court-ordered diagnosis that Hake had a serious personality disorder.
At trial, Dr. Greenstein testified that Hake had "very little awareness of what he is doing."
Hake's lawyer told the court, "we intend to allege that the Defendant is insane. ...Meaning that he did not know what he was doing or did he know the nature of his conduct, he did not know his conduct was wrong."
Dr. Greenstein testified that he had actually examined Larry Hake as a high school student 11 years earlier, in 1971, following charges of incorrigibility by his parents and a suspension from high school.
"Doctor, what were the circumstances under which you saw the Defendant 11 years ago?" Greenstein was asked.
"The Probation Department requested a psychological evaluation in order to set up a program for possible psychotherapy and the school wanted to have some type of program in place before they would readmit him into active studies," Dr. Greenstein testified.
"The evaluation 11 years ago revealed Larry Hake to be an angry, bitter, rebellious, defiant adolescent who would not respond to authority, who felt very much rejected at home, who had little capacity to form genuine, positive emotional relationships and who instead reacted with anger, revenge and aggression as the typical type of behavior," Dr. Greenstein went on.
Dr. Greenburg concluded, "The adolescent I saw in 1971 has psychologically fulfilled all the worst possible cases for maladapted behavior considering the type of person he is. His personality style has been finalized. There are very little elements he is able to change at this point. He will be suspicious, watchful, explosive, I think for the remainder of his life. I did call him a chronic personality disorder with explosive and paranoid features."
Although Dr. Greenstein diagnosed Hake's personality disorder in 1971 for York County's Probation Department, that diagnosis never made it to York County Children and Youth caseworker Bev Mackereth in 1982.
Unaware of this information at the meeting with Hake and Jo Ellen on January 13, 1982, Bev Mackereth says she instead laid down the law:
"I told Mrs. Bailey that she was responsible for protection of her child, and that if the child ever had another injury or was ever abused or beaten again that she would be held as responsible as if she had done it herself, whether she had or not," Mackereth testified.
Should there be a murder trial, then, Mackereth's warning would be used legally against Jo Ellen and Larry Hake -- as it ultimately would be.
But what of little Aleta Bailey?
Aleta, it would turn out, desperately needed immediate protection from both Larry Hake and Jo Ellen.
Dr. Cohen's advice might have saved Aleta's life. "If the boyfriend were not removed from the home, then it would be necessary to take the child into custody at that time. "
Instead, Bev Mackereth attempted to act rationally with two individuals who were decidedly irrational, and mentally ill to boot, as the weeks ahead would show.
Of course Bev Mackereth scheduled "parenting skills" classes for Hake with county Protective Services, but he never brought himself around to show up for the classes.
He had, after all, explained to Bev Mackereth that he had problems controlling himself.
Larry Hake temporarily moved out of Jo Ellen's trailer, but he didn't go far, and Jo Ellen and young Aleta were never far from him.
In fact, Larry Hake would move back into the trailer within two weeks. In the mean time, Hake and Jo Ellen hid out together on a local farm. Jo Ellen took Aleta along.
A month or so before Aleta's beating in January 1982, Hake and another man began renting a summer house on a farm in rural Spring Grove.
The farm was about a dozen or so miles out of town, and about 10 miles from Jo Ellen's trailer court on Pine Road. It was in this rundown summer house, in bucolic south central Pennsylvania, that Larry Hake and Jo Ellen found sanctuary from the prying eyes and ineffectual supervision of York County Children and Youth Services.
Spring Grove is an old, odd, isolated area, with plenty of overgrown farmland. Most days, back then, Spring Grove smelled of the choking effluents from the nearby Glatfelter paper mill, where pulp used to make United States currency was shredded, boiled and rolled.
It was in Spring Grove, in the dark shack on the farm, that Jo Ellen was drawn by her wild sexual abandon to Larry Hake. It's the sort of place you can get lost in the dirt back roads, littered as they are with faded signs exhorting one to Repent Now, that Jesus Loves You, that Jesus Will Save You, and to buy loose-leafed chewing tobacco. It's the sort of place you can get lost in the weeds, and in the rundown buildings, in the pop-eyed screams of animals, and in the late night whiskey-soaked and alcohol-fueled lustful screams of humans.
Jo Ellen would tell her neighbor at the trailer park, and others, just "how great the sex was between her and Larry."
Later, a county judge would make note of a "love letter" from Jo Ellen to Hake that "shows a very bizarre and very -- what shall I say -- titillating type of sexual conduct. ...(T)hat was the nature of their relationship and how intense it was."
The letter mentioned by the judge, dated May 1, 1982, was written by Jo Ellen Bailey from jail, four months after Hake's first beating of her child. The letter was smuggled out of York County Prison by a friend of Jo Ellen Bailey's and mailed to Larry Hake. In the letter, Jo Ellen addresses Hake as, "Dear Pillsbury Dough-Boy." Sexually explicit, the letter tells Hake, "I'm beside you Larry, no matter what happens." Jo Ellen goes on to tell Hake, "I didn't give you my heart. You took it. As long as you've got that, how can we be separate? Each time we made love together, we became one. I gave up my own identity each time." It's signed, "Love Ya! Babe."
The farm where Hake stayed in Spring Grove boasted a farmhouse, a barn, a summer house, and another out building. Hake's landlady at the farm, Elizabeth Ettinger, says, "I lived in the big farmhouse," while Hake "lived in the summer house." During the months of January and February, after Aleta's first beating, Ettinger says she saw Jo Ellen at the farm "quite often."
In the week's following Aleta's beating, while the pair supposedly were under the watchful eyes of Children and Youth Services, Jo Ellen approached Elizabeth Ettinger and showed her the marks and bruises on Aleta's small backside.
"I saw the marks on her," Elizabeth Ettinger says. "Jo Ellen showed them to me." "On her buttocks, and on the lower part of her back, and a little bit on her legs."
Ettinger says Jo Ellen told her that Larry spanked Aleta, but she didn't believe he did all of it. "She thought her sister did some of it to make him look bad." Jo Ellen didn't seem upset.
Sometime after she first saw the marks on Aleta, Ettinger says she saw Jo Ellen take Aleta to the summer house to visit Hake.
"She stayed there after the child was beaten the first time in January," Ettinger recounts. "She came there to the farmhouse and had Aleta with her, and she said that Larry wasn't supposed to be around her."
"She said he couldn't be around her because he had beat her, but she said -- well, she didn't say she was going to stay there, but she said if anybody asked me, that she was there visiting me, not him."
Jo Ellen stayed in the summer house with Larry Hake for at least four days, says Ettinger. "She stayed in the summer house with him and another man (who) rented the summer house." This was, she says, "After he wasn't supposed to be around her."
Then one day Jo Ellen asked Elizabeth Ettinger for a ride back to her trailer in Dover Township. Aleta's father, Cameron, had asked to see his daughter before he returned to military service.
Jo Ellen wanted to go back to her trailer to pick up Aleta after the child's visit with her father. Ettinger gave Jo Ellen a ride and they waited at a neighbor's house until Cameron and Aleta arrived.
Ettinger said that Cameron "just walked by us and went in and started getting clothes and things and taking them out. Jo Ellen said, in front of me and Aleta, that if Larry was here, he would kill him. Larry Hake. If he was there, he would kill Cameron.
"And Aleta started crying."
"She said it in front of Aleta, to Aleta, and I heard her say it to Aleta. Yes, and I told her, 'You don't talk like that to a little girl.'"
Bev Mackereth at York County Children and Youth Services made two more surprise visits to Jo Ellen's trailer, on January 19, a week after her first visit; and again, on February 4. The case at some point was transferred to another caseworker.
On both surprise visits Aleta seemed cheerful, and happy, though on February 4 the child had a cold. On both visits, Larry Hake wasn't at the trailer. By this time, though, Hake had already secretly moved back in.
Did Mackereth have any indication to believe that Mrs. Bailey was a participant in the abuse she saw on January 12? Mackereth was asked at trial.
"I can't say for sure," Mackereth answers. "I saw that there were problems."
Bev Mackereth testified in 1982 that neither she nor anyone else at her agency knew that Jo Ellen and Hake were spending nights together on the farm in Spring Grove, or in the trailer, although, "I knew he had been visiting the trailer for short periods of time."
Strangely, 28 years later, in 2010, Mackereth told me that she had only been assigned to Aleta Bailey's case for 10 days following the January 12, 1982, incident.
"I was in charge of the case for only 10 days and then it was transferred to someone else in the agency," Mackereth told me.
"Bev," I replied, "you testified in court that you visited the Bailey's trailer on February 4, 1982, which was three weeks after you first got involved on January 12."
Mackereth then reiterated that she was only "in charge" of the case for ten days. "I did go to the trailer on several occasions afterward," she tells me. "But it was only to visit and to look at the puppies. They had cute puppies."
What kind of puppies were they? I asked.
"I can't remember," Mackereth told me.
In any event, after Mackereth's last visit to the trailer on February 4, 1982, court records indicate that Aleta's case had been transferred to Bev Mackereth's co-worker, Tanya Kuhn, of Children and Youth's Protective Services.
Tanya Kuhn, the new caseworker, visited Jo Ellen Bailey and Aleta at the trailer court on February 12. At this visit Jo Ellen had been combative with the caseworker, Kuhn testified.
"I asked to make an appointment to talk to Mr. Hake, since he was still going to have some involvement with Aleta," Kuhn recalls. "And Jo Ellen said, 'Well, I'm not sure where he lives, and I don't know his phone number.'"
"I would say certain things, like about the parenting skills class, and she would say, 'Well, I already told Bev that.' And to another question, 'I already told Bev I would go.' Another question -- 'Well, I already told Bev that.'"
Kuhn explains, "Yes, Jo Ellen said that she would go but that Larry couldn't because of his employment." So again, they knew Hake wouldn't go to any classes.
Jo Ellen seemed embittered by her separation from Aleta's father, Kuhn recounts. "She just said that Cameron had left her. He had left her with car payments, and a trailer payment, and really in a financial stress situation, and that he really didn't care about Aleta at all." This last statement was untrue; Jo Ellen was shifting blame.
Then, Kuhn says, Jo Ellen testily told her, "'I have not laid a hand on her since you have gotten involved.'"
"At one point Jo Ellen pulled up the back of (Aleta's) shirt so that I could see that there were no marks on the child," Kuhn remembered.
Even so, Kuhn testified, "I noticed a small red mark on her face that day."
When asked about the red mark on the side of Aleta's face, Jo Ellen and Aleta both said that she had fallen.
Laughter in the snow
Harry Meek lived in the closely packed trailer park not far from Jo Ellen and Aleta Bailey's trailer. Meek's trailer was four away from Jo Ellen Bailey's. The trailer park was a small, tight-knit community.
Meek says he never got to know Larry Hake. "I've seen him but I didn't know him," Meek says. "Never talked to him."
He and his wife spoke to Jo Ellen and Aleta Bailey "a couple of dozen times," he says.
Sometimes little Aleta Bailey would come down to his trailer. "A couple of times we talked to her, me and my wife," he says. "She was never there that long. She would talk a little bit and then run back home."
Mostly, Aleta stayed at home, Meek says. She seemed like a nice little girl.
As for Jo Ellen, says Meek, "A lot of people around there knowed her."
Jo Ellen Bailey's next door neighbor at the trailer park, Nancy Jo Miller, saw Jo Ellen and Aleta frequently during the winter of 1982, "a couple of times a week," she says.
In the previous three or four months, Miller says, she and Jo Ellen "just started talking and becoming friends.... I'd have stitchery parties and she would come over to the parties."
Larry Hake occasionally would stay in Jo Ellen's trailer that winter, Miller says.
Whenever Jo Ellen would come over to visit Miller in her trailer, she would talk about her relationships with Hake, and Aleta.
"Just about every time I would see her, she would say about how great the sex was between her and Larry, and that Aleta was getting under her skin and she would like to get rid of her for a while," Miller relates.
Nancy Jo says she offered to babysit the child, so that Jo Ellen could have some time off.
Sometime in January 1982, Nancy Jo Miller remembers, "I hadn't seen Jo Ellen for a while, and I just walked in and said, 'How's it going?' She starts telling me about Larry beating Aleta and that he got carried away, and she showed me the marks on her. They were faded, so I really didn't know how bad they were, but she said the Children's Services was involved, and that."
On that occasion, Miller recounts, "There was a mark, a round mark on (Aleta's) leg that Jo Ellen said she must have run into the coffee table."
The wound, Miller says, looked to her like "a bite mark."
On February 7, Aleta turned five years old.
The next week, on Monday, February 15, Miller had the day off from work for Presidents Day.
"I had off that Monday," Miller says. "It was a holiday of some kind, and it was an extra day off for us from work. Jo Ellen and Aleta came over." Aleta brought her coloring books. Aleta, Miller says, "always kept herself entertained. She never gave me any trouble."
"And I have a wild cat," she says. It was a "house cat that isn't crazy about people, except for my husband and myself," she explains. "I tell everyone who comes into the house not to touch the cat because 'he will bite you.' I told Aleta that, and she was frightened by it and wouldn't walk past the cat into my living room.
"Jo Ellen smacked (Aleta) and she fell into the couch, and she cried a little bit, and then she entertained herself with her coloring books.
"That's when Jo Ellen said to me again that the sex was great and she would like to get rid of Aleta for a while. I offered to baby sit for the rest of the afternoon, but Jo Ellen couldn't take me up on it because Larry had her car and she couldn't go anywhere anyway. Shortly after that, my husband came home."
It snowed a few days later, on Wednesday, February 17.
That evening Nancy Jo Miller had the curtains drawn in her trailer. She heard the sounds of Larry Hake, Jo Ellen, and Aleta pull up in Jo Ellen's car to the trailer next door. She heard the sharp sounds of snow shoveling, and the muffled sounds of playing in the snow.
"No, I didn't see them," she says. "I heard them pull up and heard them playing in the snow, because my curtains were always drawn in the winter.
"I heard them playing in the snow, because you can hear the shovel going across the gravel, and I heard them laughing."
The next afternoon, on Thursday, February 18, 1982, when Nancy Jo Miller came home from work, policemen were in the yard of Jo Ellen Bailey's trailer.
The policemen were taking pictures.
On February 18, around 4:30 in the afternoon, Dennis Little was at the Shiloh firehall with his ten-year-old daughter.
Larry Hake pulled up to the firehall in Jo Ellen's car. Hake pulled up in a careless fashion, blocking the driveway used by the fire engines. He got out of the car and approached Hall and his daughter.
"It just seemed like he was in a daze, like, you know, 'What's happening?'" Little recounts.
"Well, when he first arrived, I had to ask him what he needed or if he needed help. He stated he needed an ambulance. I therefore informed him that our fire company does not have an ambulance but, 'I can get one for you in a short time,'" Little goes on.
"I left him in the firehall. I asked him what the address was, and he told me 2254 Pine Road." Little soon returned and told Larry Hake that an ambulance and an Advance Life Support Unit were practically on the scene.
"That's when he informed me that the child was beaten," Little says. "It seemed like he was in a state of disbelief."
"I asked him if he knew who assaulted the child or beat the child, and he put his head down and said, 'Yes, I know who did it.' He muttered something like, 'I think I killed her.'"
Little says he asked Hake to move the car, as it was blocking the fire engines.
"At that time I figured, well, if he's going to run for it, he going to do it now," Little says. "He went out and moved the car around to the side. He didn't try to take off at all. He seemed very, at the moment, submissive."
Hake stood talking with Dennis Little. As they spoke, Officer Steve Crider of the West Manchester Township Police Department pulled up behind the firehall. An alert had already been put out over the police radio for Larry Hake.
Officer Crider says he got out of his cruiser and asked Hake, "What is the problem?"
"He said, 'I think I just killed a little girl.'"
'No duty to protect Aleta'
Some years ago York County established an archive to hold its old records and historical papers. They placed the county archives well away from downtown, several miles from the courthouse. The archives building is out in suburbia, not far from Interstate 30, the road out of town, which takes you across the Susquehanna into Lancaster.
In the county archive are kept the records from the old criminal court cases. I drove there one day not long ago, and asked to see the records from the trials of Larry Hake and Jo Ellen Bailey.
I was directed to sit at a table. It was a quiet day at the archive. A few county workers shuffled through boxes on the far side of the office.
Before long a woman returned with an ordinary-enough looking cardboard box.
Aleta's box at the York County archives: missing is a state report on the conduct of Children and Youth Services
Setting the box on the table, the woman warned me, "These records are particularly disturbing."
Disturbing they are. Before she was beaten to death by Larry Hake, Aleta Bailey was apparently sodomized, raped and tortured.
The torture had gone on for some time. Experts testified at trial that "a fatal blow to the head was administered to Aleta sometime within the ten to twelve hours before her death."
Joy Carmen, an emergency room technician at York Hospital, responded to the 911 call for help.
"I was working on Aleta, (and Jo Ellen) was standing a little behind me to my left or right, I believe, and just made comments," Carmen testified. "She said, 'He started beating on her last night.' Then, a little bit later she said, 'He was beating her and she stopped breathing, and then he went for an ambulance.'"
At trial, Carmen described Aleta's wounds: "She was bruised at every area of her body from the face and head to her feet -- swelling, a lot of swelling."
"Did you notice any portion of her body of any substantial size that was free of bruising?" Carmen was asked.
"The feet were bruised?"
"Every place -- front and back," Carmen said.
"Were there any bruises that you happened to notice at this time that had any particular shape or character?" she was asked.
"Yes, sir. There were teeth bites on her. There were marks of teeth bites."
Aleta's box at the York County archives partially documents a suffering that no living creature should ever endure, let alone a five-year-old little girl.
It's worth noting that all the records of her case aren't there.
At Jo Ellen Bailey's trial, the judge refused to allow into evidence reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's investigation into the handling of Aleta's case by York County Children and Youth Services.
J. Christian Ness, at the time the district attorney of York County, told the judge, "the main problem I'm going to have is the admission into evidence of the reports from the Commonwealth as to whether Children's Services properly or improperly handled the case. It's going to be records and interviews with Children's Services. I don't see that that's relevant unless there's some allegation that Children's Services committed the injuries."
The judge ruled the reports were inadmissible.
So these public reports never made it in to Aleta's box at the county archives.
Others in this story met their own fates.
Larry Hake and Jo Ellen Bailey were given separate trials. After a non-jury trial conducted in faraway Wayne County before York County Judge Emanual Cassimatis, Hake was ruled sane and convicted of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He hanged himself with a bed sheet in his prison cell in 1986.
Jo Ellen Bailey was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 10-to-20 years in prison.
After her death, Aleta's father Cameron Bailey filed a federal lawsuit against York County Children and Youth Services (YCCYS), on behalf of Aleta's estate. He lost the suit. The court held that Children and Youth Services had no duty to protect Aleta. "In effect," an appeals court wrote in 1985, "the district court accepts YCCYS's claim that it did not owe a duty to Aleta."
Bev Mackereth, the caseworker who first saw Aleta's wounds, found herself promoted through the ranks of York County political circles. She was elected mayor of Spring Grove in 1996. In 1997, she was appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as deputy director of the Governor's Community Partnership for Safe Children. "The partnership was established to assist communities in setting up effective programs to reduce childhood violence," her resume reads.
Mackereth was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2000, where she worked until 2008. She was then appointed to the job she holds today: executive director of the York County Human Services Department -- in charge of Children and Youth Services.
Under Mackereth's directorship, an international uproar was sparked in February 2010, when the parents of a 7-year-old adopted Russian boy, Nathaniel Craver, were charged with criminal homicide in the boy's death.
York County Children and Youth Services, in 2007, briefly removed Nathaniel from the home, but then closed the case, and did not follow up on the welfare of the increasingly emaciated boy. There are again indications that severe mental illness may have been a factor in the boy's life, and death. The boy's aunt says that she visited the family in August 2009 and saw that Nathaniel had head injuries. Nathaniel, she says, clung to her and would not let go. He seemed isolated from the world.
Bev Mackereth told me that she would freely discuss anything. Anything, that is, except the pending case involving the death of Nathaniel Craver.
"I will not jeopardize the pending case," she told me.
So I asked Mackereth for a copy of the 1982 report by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare on York County Children and Youth's handling of Aleta Bailey's case.
"We don't have a copy of that," Mackereth told me.
Then, suddenly, Bev Mackereth said that York County Children and Youth Services was not responsible for the death of Nathaniel Craver in late 2009.
"If we had had a report, if we had known, we could have done something," she choked, emotionally.
I asked Executive Director Bev Mackereth whether Children and Youth Services, in the language of the court, had a duty to protect Nathanial Craver?
Mackereth again said she wouldn't talk about his case.
Some things in York County, you see, never change.
A child who has died, too, becomes forever frozen in time.
Aleta Bailey, in the memories of those who knew her, is forever five years old.
If she were alive today, Aleta would be a young woman in her thirties. She might even be a mom. In the movie It's a Wonderful Life, Clarence the angel tells George Bailey, "Strange isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
Aleta Bailey and Nathaniel Cramer may be frozen in time. It would be appropriate, however, to see York County, Pennsylvania, join civilized, educated, and responsible society sometime in the twenty-first century AD.
As for little Aleta Bailey and Nathaniel Craver, most people hereabouts will tell you that they are now in the protective arms of Jesus.
Jesus, they'll tell you, loves the little children.
Officials in York County will tell you they love children too -- they just don't have any duty to protect them.
And so only in death did Aleta and Nathaniel find the refuge and the sanctuary that eluded them in their York County lives.