Zara Scruggs was 10 months old when her father ended her life in the most brutal way possible. 29-year-old Austin Stevens raped and killed his baby daughter in Lower Providence Township.
Montgomery County officials reported Austin Stevens, an assistant youth football coach for Lower Providence Warriors, has been charged with rape of a child, aggravated assault, and other related charges in his daughter’s death.
The fatal evening
On the night of her murder, the infant was visiting her father per custody agreement. It was supposed to be a joyous occasion since little Zara just started walking.
The last people who saw the infant alive were her maternal grandparents. The couple drove the victim to her father’s home. They had no reason to suspect anything, as Zara’s grandmother stated:
“No, we didn’t think anything bad. Nothing. If I had a clue, no! The love right now, even with his other side of his family. No, no, we never thought anything like this.”
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele says Zara was at her father’s house on Saturday evening. She was found unresponsive about 10:40 p.m., following a 911 call.
The help got to her, and she was transported to Einstein Medical Center in Montgomery County. Zara died shortly after midnight.
Steele said that the hospital staff gave the authorities a blood-saturated diaper Zara had been wearing when she was admitted.
Stevens’s phone says it all
Detectives explained that Stevens Googled on his phone: “how do you know if a baby is dead,” “if the baby stops breathing,” “what if you don’t hear baby heart or beat,” and “my baby isn’t breathing.”
An autopsy confirmed Zara was the victim of a sexual assault. She also sustained blunt force trauma to her head.
Steele added the authorities are waiting for additional forensic results. Those will determine the exact cause of death as Stevens could face more charges.
“This case is deeply disturbing. It is hard to imagine this child’s death being any more traumatic. Sexual assault on an infant, followed by inaction by the father to save her life, led to her death,” Steele stated at the news conference.
Stevens is at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility with $1 million bail. The authorities urge anyone who knows about Stevens’s alleged abuse to give them a call.
Zara Scruggs is laid to rest
After this horrible crime, the baby girl’s mother, Erica Scruggs, posted a short message on her Facebook account. She said: “I’m not OK. He will pay.”
While her father, Austin Stevens, is in jail facing rape, aggravated assault, and murder charges, Zara’s tragedy gathered over 500 people who wanted to say goodbye to the little one.
“I just love you all because you all love my baby, and I appreciate everybody,” mother Erica Scruggs said.
Thousands of balloons were released in the infant’s memory. It was an attempt to erase the thought of the horrendous way she left this world.
People are doing their best to support Zara’s family. A family friend has launched a GoFundMe page to help her mother, who is currently unemployed. The fundraiser gathered over $50,000 in donations.
“She sparked so much joy,” a GoFundMe page says. “She was smart, she was silly, she was sassy, she was perfect, she was a beautiful baby and brought so much beauty into hundreds of lives.”
Though it’s only been two weeks since she died, family and friends want to start a foundation since Zara’s not the only baby to leave this world in such a tragic way.