York Town Square

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Before Darisabel Baez’s brutal death, Aleta Bailey’s slaying wrenched York County community

Cameron Bailey feeds his infant daughter, Aleta Bailey, a bottle. In 1982, when Cameron was away for military training, his wife’s boyfriend beat the 5-year-old to death. Aleta Bailey’s name is remembered as the York County, Pa., community wrestles with the beating death of another youngster, 2-year-old Darisabel Baez of York. Also of interest: Witman murder among York County’s most notorious crimes and Harve Johnson becomes the ninth man to sit on death row from York County and All cops and courts posts from the start.

The death of Darisabel Baez, the youngster beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend on West Philadelphia Street two years ago, was not the first warning York countians have received that child abuse is an epidemic here.
At least 11 York County homicide cases have stemmed from violence in the home since 2008.
And before there was Darisabel, there was Aleta.
Five-year-old Aleta Bailey died in 1982 at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend.
Aleta had been beaten beyond recognition. At first, police couldn’t determine her race… .

That case changed state law. Before that, child welfare officials kept families together, even if abuse was occurring.
Still, child abuse goes on in York County. One count places us at third in the state in substantiated counts of child abuse.
My York Sunday News column (4/18/10), Darisabel case must move us to action, addressed this epidemic.
Here’s an excerpt:

But a change in the law didn’t change hearts.
In 2009, YorkCounts released a slew of revealing indicators to measure progression, or regression, on key community issues – for instance, the number of violent crimes, driving under the influence and bias-related cases.
The community is making progress on many of these issues, so improvement is possible.
But regression would be the right word for child abuse in York County.
The report rightly said that child abuse is particularly heinous because it affects the most vulnerable. And when children are abused, those wounds often last. Some abused youngsters become abusive parents themselves.
While numbers of child abuse cases statewide declined, local cases went up. “The measurements for this Indicator,” the report stated, “are among the most troubling in the entire report.”
Numbers available since the YorkCounts 2009 compilation show the county is down a bit and the state is up some. But the county numbers are still higher than five or six years ago.
Darisabel’s death should prompt a community change of heart.
It has energized local representation in the statewide movement, Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania.
A group met last week on domestic violence, studying the “psychology of abusers and the women who protect them.”
Part of the solution is increased awareness by all 400,000-plus York countians to signs of abuse.
The stats clearly show that other counties have found at least partial solutions to reduce child abuse.
We can, too.
Indeed, we must.

Photo: YDR/YSN file.