Three from Minersville charged with abusing, torturing children

Apr. 9—PORT CARBON — Three children abused over a two-year period in Minersville were forced to use a peanut butter jar to collect snow and rain from out of a window to get drinking water, authorities said.

The abuse of the siblings came at the hands of their father, Todd Richter II, 32, and his fiancee, Jennifer Yost, 27, as well as the woman's mother, Wendy Yost, 51, according to authorities.

The abuse occurred between March 2019 and March at the home of Richter and Jennifer Yost at 321 St. Francis St. in Minersville and the home of Wendy Yost at 323 St. Francis St., authorities said.

During their arraignments Thursday afternoon, Magisterial District Judge David A. Plachko denied bail, calling the allegations against the three "the most serious, disturbing and heart-wrenching" that he has seen in his 30 years on the bench.

"There is no monetary amount or anything other than imprisonment that will ensure the safety of the victims," the judge said. "The safety of all of the victims has to be paramount."

Minersville police Patrolman Richard Clink and Schuylkill County Detective Thomas Robin charged all three with felony, misdemeanor and summary offenses.

Richter was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, false imprisonment, endangering the welfare of children and harassment.

Jennifer Yost was charged with aggravated assault, strangulation, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, unlawful restraint, endangering the welfare of children, false imprisonment and harassment.

Her mother, Wendy Yost, was charged with aggravated assault, strangulation, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children.

The abuse came to light on March 10 when a 12-year-old boy was found walking on the street injured and in distress. Clink said the child reported he escaped his house and that his two siblings could still be inside.

EMS personnel said the boy suffered bodily injuries and appeared to be the victim of abuse, Clink said.

Authorities then went to the house and located Wendy and Jennifer Yost and the other two children.

Clink said the children looked pale, emaciated and appeared to be fearful. The 11-year-old boy had a semi-healed cut on his left wrist and a cut on his lip.

Based on comments made by the elder boy about an attic area of the home, Clink said a search was conducted and a strong odor of urine was evident, with a peanut butter jar that appeared to be filled with urine and a 5-gallon bucket that appeared to be liquid feces.

All of the items were in an area where the boy said that he and his siblings were held captive, Clink said.

He said the 12-year-old was treated at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, where physicians determined he had a long history of prolonged child abuse and child torture.

Medical personnel speaking with the child also said he related being beaten by Richter, Jennifer and Wendy Yost with their hands, a belt or a mallet. The boy said he rarely gets to brush his teeth and gets to eat "once every couple days" and that it is usually "scraps" from meals, Clink said.

When examined, the 11-year-old reported being subjected to physical abuse, neglect and starvation by his father and Jennifer Yost. Clink said the child also had scars over his chest, back and extremities.

The 9-year-old girl, Clink said, was examined and showed similar signs of abuse and child torture.

The 12-year-old told authorities the day he escaped from the home that he was walking and found a half-filled bottle of water on the road and drank it. The boy said he did not care if it had germs because he had not eaten in days and felt like he was going to pass out, Clink said.

The boy went onto say he had been hit with many objects, poked with a metal fork, thrown down the steps and, at times, Wendy Yost would agitate her cat and place it on his stomach to scratch him, Clink reported.

He said that while locked in the attic, the three would use a peanut butter jar to collect rainwater from a gutter outside to drink and they also ate snow and ice from outside because they had nothing to eat.

Clink said the 11-year-old also told stories of abuse that were similar, if not identical, to those told by his older brother.

The children have since been removed from the home, along with another child, a 3-year-old girl who is the child of Richter and Jennifer Yost. That child, Clink said, did not appear to suffer any abuse.

Plachko set a preliminary hearing for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in his courtroom, but said that date will most likely be continued.

Prior to the arraignment, Minersville Police Chief Michael Combs said that in his decades in law enforcement, the case involving the three children is one he will not forget.

"I have 40 years in and this is one of the worst cases I have seen," he said.