SAEGERTOWN — An alleged child rapist may have been the victim of sexual abuse himself as a child.

That detail came to light during a preliminary hearing Monday for Christopher P. Cote, 22, of McKean before Magisterial District Judge Lincoln Zilhaver.

Cote’s comment came during an interview conducted by Sgt. Robert Deets of Cambridge Springs Police at Meadville Medical Center, Deets said.

Deets was interviewing Cote about injuries to the genital area of Cote’s 3-month-old daughter.

Cote and Ashley Snyder, the girl’s mother, had taken the 3-month-old girl to the hospital for medical treatment on July 24.

Deets said Cote tried to explain away the 3-month-old’s genital injuries as constipation and diarrhea. Cote denied causing the injuries.

“He said ‘I don’t want what happened to me to happen to (the 3-month-old),’ ” Deets testified during Monday’s hearing.

There was no further questioning of Deets on that alleged statement by Cote by either Paula DiGiacomo, assistant district attorney, or Edward Hatheway, Cote’s defense lawyer. Sources close to the case were unavailable for further comment.

Cote, 22, was ordered held for trial by Zilhaver on a total of 13 counts including rape of a child with serious bodily injury. Cambridge Springs Police filed the charges against Cote for allegedly assaulting his 3-month-old and 1-year-old daughters July 24 at the home he then shared with Snyder, the mother of both girls. The older child recently turned 2.

When Deets asked Cote if Cote knew the trouble he’d be in if Cote’s DNA was found on the 3-month-old girl, Deets testified, “He said it won’t happen, but if it was, he deserved to be in trouble.”

Cote is charged by Cambridge Springs Police with one count each of rape of a child with serious bodily injury, rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, incest, endangering the welfare of children, indecent assault, aggravated assault, simple assault and aggravated indecent assault for the alleged attack on the 3-month-old.

Cote’s July arraignment included only charges connected with the alleged attack on the 3-month-old. During Monday’s preliminary hearing, police added charges of simple assault, indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children for allegedly assaulting the older girl.

Snyder testified she didn’t notice anything unusual when she changed the diapers on both girls around 3:30 p.m. before she went to work on July 24 and left the girls with Cote.

When Snyder returned from work around 7:50 p.m., Cote was holding the younger child, who was sobbing.

After preparing the evening bath for the 3-month-old, Snyder noticed the little girl had been bleeding and there was a green and yellow discharge on her diaper, Snyder said.

Cote told Snyder the girl had been constipated and had diarrhea, Snyder said.

When she put the girl in the tub, “she screamed her head off,” Snyder said.

Snyder said she noticed the girl also had a bruise on the inside of one of her thighs. When she questioned Cote about it, Snyder said Cote told her he must have bumped the girl with one of his nails when he changed her diaper.

Snyder also noticed the 1-year-old had redness in her genital area before placing her in the bath tub.

Snyder said she and Cote left the house with both girls about 9:30 p.m. The 1-year-old was dropped off with Snyder’s aunt, Eleanor Burger, Snyder said.

Snyder and Cote then took the 3-month-old to Meadville Medical Center’s emergency room, Snyder said.

When Cote was questioned by hospital staff about whether the girl was sexually abused, Snyder testified Cote said he “wasn’t that stupid to do anything to her, and if he did, they would find his DNA inside her.”

The 3-month-old was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh for further examination.

The girl required eight sutures to her genital area, Dr. Janet Squires, a staff physician at Children’s testified via telephone. Squires said she examined the 3-month-old in the operating room with the surgeon working on her injuries.

Eleanor Burger, Snyder’s aunt and a retired licensed practical nurse, testified she noticed the 1-year-old had dilation and redness in the genital area when changing that girl’s diaper.

Burger said she talked with Snyder by phone about what she had seen and then took the 1-year-old to Meadville Medical Center. The child was examined with a full body X-ray, and the hospital’s staff recommended a second opinion, Burger said.

The 1-year-old was taken to Erie for an examination by a forensic nurse, Burger said.

Nurse Rhonda Henderson, who did the forensic examination of the 1-year-old, testified the girl had contusions and abrasions in the genital area when Henderson examined the girl July 26. Henderson said the areas had begun to heal when a second examination was done Aug. 3.

Cote remains lodged in the Crawford County jail without bond.

Cote, who had been free on $35,000 bond, had his bond revoked Sept. 17 by Zilhaver for violating one of his bond conditions. Cote was seen by Cambridge Springs Police in the company of a 17-year-old girl. As one of the conditions of his bond, Cote was to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18.

Cote remains under a suicide watch that was put in place by jail officials last Wednesday after he told a corrections officer he felt like killing himself.

If convicted on all charges, Cote faces a mandatory minimum of 50 years in prison. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on the rape of a child with serious bodily injury count.



Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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