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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Elizabeth Twp. girl, 13, kills dad, alleges sex abuse

7-31-2007 New Jersey:

Hours after killing her father with a shotgun blast to the face, Rachel Booth told investigators and a neighbor why she did it.

Her father had been sexually abusing her for years, Booth, 13, of Elizabeth Township, told neighbor Suzanne Gruber, 20.

"She said, 'I'm not a bad person,' " said Gruber, who accompanied Booth, a seventh-grader enrolled in the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, to the police station. Investigators confirmed that Booth told them she couldn't take the abuse any longer and "had enough."

Booth picked up her father's 12-gauge shotgun at 2:22 a.m. Monday and leveled it at him. Matthew Booth Sr., 34, was lying on a bed in the first floor of the family's Pitt Street home, according to Allegheny County police. She fired once, killing him nearly instantly, police said.

Rachel Booth appeared in Pittsburgh Municipal Court, wrists and ankles shackled, eyes downcast and face drawn.
She didn't speak during a brief hearing in front of District Judge Anthony Saveikis, who ordered her held without bond in the county jail on a criminal homicide charge.

The girl's mother, Michelle Fazek, 33, of White Oak, said she had filed numerous complaints during the past few years with police and the county Office of Children, Youth and Families about the deplorable conditions of the home in which her daughter and son, Matthew Booth Jr., 14, were living.

CYF officials didn't return calls for comment.

"My kids never told me specifically that they were being abused, but they looked like they were, and I always suspected it," Fazek said after her daughter's arraignment. "I tried to get someone to help her and no one would listen, and now my 13-year-old daughter is in jail."

Fazek and Matthew Booth Sr. never married but had three children together. She filed for three protection-from-abuse orders against him, and he filed one against her, court records show. They finally split in April 2005 after Booth was charged with pointing an unloaded shotgun at Fazek and pulling the trigger. It was not clear yesterday how that case was resolved.

In September, Booth was granted custody of both children, and Fazek was given custody of another daughter, age 12.

On Feb. 16, 2006, Rachel Booth called Fazek early in the morning screaming that she had tried to commit suicide, according to court records. A week later, Matthew Booth Sr. called Fazek and said Rachel Booth had been sexually assaulted two months earlier by a family friend, who later committed suicide, court records state.

Matthew Booth Sr. told Fazek that Rachel Booth was receiving care related to the incident, according to a petition filed by Fazek in March 2006.

CYF opened an investigation and learned the girl had been out of school for 45 days.

When county police detectives arrived at the home, they found animal urine, feces and garbage on the floors, and the rooms teeming with fleas and other insects. A broken window allowed cats to come and go.

"There were many animals in there that were in bad shape," said township police Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr.

McNeilly said humane society officers removed from the home four dogs, a cat and her kitten, and two degus, which are small rodents. The dogs were thin and missing hair, he said, possibly because of fleas.

Neighbor Jason Mervosh, 37, called Matthew Booth Sr. a friend and said the two enjoyed fishing and hanging out.

"He liked the outdoors," Mervosh said.

Mervosh said Booth had struggled financially but recently found work.

"He was trying to live as best he could," Mervosh said. "He just started to get on his feet and make money. He wasn't a bad guy. He was trying to do the best he could."

Fazek said she'll do whatever she can to win her daughter's freedom, and she refuses to mourn her children's father.

"He deserved what he got," Fazek said. "May he rest in hell." ..more.. by Jill King Greenwood and Karen Zapf

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