‘Like a concentration camp victim’: Police release details of Mercer Co. teen’s death

Local News

When police found the 14-year-old boy, they said he was severely underweight and his body was bruised

DELAWARE TWP., Pa. (WKBN) – A 14-year-old Mercer County boy is dead and his father is charged with his death.

Antonio Juan Gonzalez, Jr.’s body was found about 11 a.m. Thursday inside of a mobile home in the 500 block of District Road in Delaware Township, just north of the Shenango Reservoir.

Pennsylvania State Police said the trailer was stacked with debris and a refrigerator, which was chained and padlocked, was on the front porch.

Mercer County Coroner John Libonati conducted an autopsy Friday, calling it the worst case of physical abuse he’s seen.

When police arrived, they found the teen’s body. They said he only weighed about 70 pounds and had signs of “neglect and physical abuse.”

“He had a significant mark under his chin and on his chin area,” Acker said. “It’s believed he had a basal, or skull, fracture in the back of his head.”

Police said his body was bruised and his cheeks were sunken in, and there was vomit by his head.

“He appeared to be of normal height. He was about 70 pounds. He was emaciated,” said Mercer County District Attorney Pete Acker. “Looked like a concentration camp victim. You could count every one of his ribs. They were protruding and his legs were like pencils.”

The boy’s father, 33-year-old Antonio Juan Gonzalez, Sr., faces charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, concealing the death of a child, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and tampering with or fabricating evidence.

“I tried to be a father,” Gonzalez told reporters Friday. “I did the wrong thing by not believing what he said.”

The teen lived in the trailer with his father and 4-year-old sister, police said. His sister seemed to be an average weight and in good health.

When asked about the boy’s injuries, Gonzalez said the boy hurt himself.

“I wasn’t trying to do anything like this.”

According to investigators, Gonzalez’s story changed several times.

First, he told police the boy was doing his schoolwork but took a break because he was hot, according to a criminal complaint. Police said Gonzalez told them the boy came back in soaking wet because he used the hose to spray himself.

According to the criminal complaint, Gonzalez said he scolded the boy, who then had a fit and threw himself on the ground, hitting his head on a cinderblock.

Gonzalez told them he asked the boy if he was alright and the boy said he was, but later said he had a headache, according to police.

The criminal complaint states Gonzalez gave the boy a banana and glass of water, as well as frozen meat to put on his head.

Gonzalez noticed the boy’s eyes were rolling back and his breathing was shallow, police said.

He told police he left for a moment and when he came back, the boy was not breathing, according to the criminal complaint.

“He called 911, said his son was having difficulty breathing,” Acker said.

That call to 911 came around 10:40 a.m.

Then Gonzalez’s story changed, saying the boy hit his head the night before, not that morning, and it happened because he tripped, not because he had a fit, police said.

Gonzalez also claimed the boy urinated on himself at some point and Gonzalez led him outside so the boy could hose himself off, police said.

Then Gonzalez said he had the boy lay on a tarp because he got wet. At first, he said he had the boy sit on the tarp but then said the boy slept on the tarp overnight, the criminal complaint states.

Police said Gonzalez told them he poured a bucket of water on the boy early Thursday to wake him up. He said the boy groaned and was still breathing at that point, according to the criminal complaint.

When Gonzalez tried to wake the boy again for his schoolwork around 9:45 a.m., there was no response, police said.

According to investigators, Gonzalez took a picture of the boy on the ground and texted it to someone, saying he thought the boy might be dead or just pretending to be hurt.

“We suspect, based upon several factors, that the boy had actually died the night before,” Acker said.

Another man at the home, 29-year-old Paul Bacorn, was also arrested and is facing charges of endangering the welfare of a child and criminal conspiracy.

Acker said both Gonzalez and Bacorn live in separate trailers in deplorable conditions on the same property.

Bacorn said he was sometimes responsible for feeding the children, as well as participating in punishing the boy with Gonzalez, according to the criminal complaint.

That included standing in a corner for timeout, which sometimes lasted as long as three hours, police said.

Bacorn also told officers there were times they wouldn’t feed the boy, including one occasion where they didn’t feed him for three days, the criminal complaint states.

Another punishment involved having the boy stand with his arms raised over his head for anywhere between three minutes to three hours, police said.

Bacorn said it was Gonzalez who sprayed the boy with the hose, according to the criminal complaint.

He said Gonzalez then carried the boy inside and dropped him on the floor, where he left him for several hours to go to Walmart, the complaint states.

“We couldn’t begin to understand what this child went through in 14 short years,” State Police Lieutenant Dan Ekis told Pittsburgh CBS affiliate KDKA. “But, obviously, the way he died — especially at the hands of his father — is especially disturbing.”

Both suspects were arraigned Friday. Gonzalez is being held without bond and Bacorn’s bond was set at $100,000.

Both men are due back in court next month.

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