Yesterday, Magisterial District Judge Leonard V. Tenaglia, District Court 32-2-37, decided that 4 charges were to be dismissed against a couple whose child’s face was partially bitten off by pet ferrets in January. 42-year-old Burnie Fraim and 24-year-old Jessica Lynne Benales parents of 1 month old Skyy Fraim, were originally charged with four additional counts of endangering the welfare of children in addition to the charge Judge Tenaglia let stand. Delaware County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Boggs’ had argued that the parents had led a “course of conduct” that put the couple’s four older children in harm’s way. By doing so the additional 4 charges would have elevated the case to a felony level.
The testimony given yesterday, focused on the actual cage the ferrets were kept in. The D.A showed that the defendants were aware of a flaw in the cage that kept it from being locked securely. The D.A showed that both parents were aware of the situation as they tried to re-enforce the locking mechanism with a piece of string. The cage was not in fact a metal but made from a mesh material. In defense for Fraim, Public Defender Thomas Fieger asked that all charges should be dismissed against his client as the mother of the child, Benales was supposed to watch the child. Both parents were in the upstairs bedroom when the attack occurred. Fieger stated that “This is an accident, not a crime” but his motion was denied.
District Attorney Bogg stated that it is the duty of parents to protect their children and clearly that wasn’t the case here. He continued by stating that given how the cage for the ferrets didn’t even work they took the chance of their daughter’s injury without giving regard for her safety. Boggs told of how the parents knew that the “ferrets got out all the time.” The parents were aware of the situation but did not think twice about placing their infant daughter on the floor in her car seat and leave the room. The couples other children have been placed in the care of Children and Youth Services of Delaware County.
Court documents show that 42 year old Fraim has had his run in with the law before. According to public criminal court records, in 1997, Fraim was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon, simple assault, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and resisting arrest. He pled guilty to charges and was sentenced for 4 to 24 months followed by 2 years’ probation. Whether this will have an impact on the outcome of these charges is yet to be seen.
The two parents are out on unsecured $100,000 bail each. The two will face formal arraignment on May 27th in Delaware County.