Chandler couple arrested on suspicion of child abuse, hindering prosecution - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Chandler couple arrested on suspicion of child abuse, hindering prosecution

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Posted: Friday, August 19, 2011 2:54 pm | Updated: 12:25 pm, Wed Aug 24, 2011.

A 4-year-old boy is in the care of Child Protective Services after police arrested his mother and her live-in boyfriend accused of abusing the child to the point his leg was broken.

Police arrested Travis Darrah, 26, on suspicion of child abuse and Melissa Chambers, 22, on suspicion of hindering prosecution on Wednesday, ending a month-long investigation into the couple who initially told police that the boy fell off of his bunk bed.

On July 13, CPS received an anonymous tip to inform them that the child, who was being treated for a broken leg at a local hospital, had been abused, according to police.

CPS then called police who began to investigate the child's injuries and uncovered evidence of injuries from past abuse, including a broken rib that was healing, according to police.

Darrah, an ex-con, who is not the father of the boy, is believed to have been responsible for physically abusing him, according to Detective Seth Tyler, a Chandler police spokesman.

"He is being pointed at as the perpetrator of the crime," Tyler said. "We don't know if the mother ever laid any hands on the boy. Obviously, the mother never called us to report anything."

Darrah admitted to police he pulled the boy down the hallway by the arm, and the boy fell, but the case is ongoing.

In 2005, Darrah was convicted of trafficking in stolen property and misconduct involving weapons, according to Arizona Department of Corrections records. While in prison, he was disciplined for disobeying orders twice and refusing to work. He was released from prison in June 2008, according to prison records.

Child abuse in Chandler has a recent tragic history: Half of the city's six homicides in 2009 were from severe child abuse, with the ages of the victims ranging from 3 weeks old to 3 years old.

In fact, the Child Abuse and Awareness Coalition was formed in 2009 in response to the death of 3-year-old Schala Vera of Chandler, who died Aug. 31, 2009, after police officers discovered her lying between a toilet and a bathroom sink where she crawled to hide.

Police say Dauntorian Sanders admitted to holding Schala by her ankle as he dangled her over the upstairs bannister area while he beat her with a belt, a common occurrence in the household. He also dropped her on the floor a number of times while beating her, the report stated.

Both Sanders, 26, and Schala's mother, Susan Witbracht, 29, were charged with first-degree murder in Schala's death. Their trial is scheduled to begin in October.

Overall, CPS received more than 33,000 reports of child neglect or abuse during the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which ranks Arizona 31st nationally in the number of reported cases, according to CPS.

Five children die from severe child abuse every day. In Arizona, one child is abused or neglected every hour, according to CPS statistics.

Last year, Chandler received 200 calls for service involving child abuse and this year, police have received 94 calls involving child abuse through June 30.

Tyler said it wasn't known if any other family members or neighbors knew of any possible abuse of the boy in the case involving Darrah's and Chambers' arrest.

"The issue with the whole thing of child abuse is that people don't want to get involved," Tyler said. "If you suspect anything suspicious or out of place with a child such as consistently seeing bumps and bruises on them or seeing them wearing long-sleeve shirts or long-sleeve pants in the summer, call police."

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