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July 3, 2013

Homicide trial delayed until October

EBENSBURG — The August homicide trial of a Summerhill Township man charged in the 2012 death of a 22-month-old girl he was babysitting has been delayed until October.

Patrick Burkett, 26, of Blanche Street, Beaverdale, who has been housed at the Cambria County Prison since his Aug. 12 arrest, appeared in front of Cambria County Judge Timothy Creany on Wednesday to request the continuance by way of his attorneys, Patricia Moore and John Lovette.

In granting the request for continuance, which was not opposed by Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Persio, Creany said he was unable to provide specific dates for jury selection and the trial, but it will be in mid-October.

State police allege that Burkett was watching the toddler, Raegan Panick, on Aug. 10 while the mother was at work.

The mother found Raegan unresponsive when she returned home from work at about 4:30 p.m.

The toddler was taken to Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown and then flown by medical helicopter to Pittsburg, where she died a day later at Children’s Hospital.

The Allegheny County coroner’s office listed the death as blunt force trauma to the head, consistent with an assault. Her manner of death was ruled a homicide.

The criminal complaint against Burkett listed injuries to the toddler as bruising on the head, abdomen, upper thigh and groin area. She had a fractured skull, retinal hemorrhaging and a herniated brain.

When interviewed by police, Burkett offered several reasons for Raegan’s injuries, including falls in different areas of the house and outside.

In requesting more time to prepare for trial, Moore said the defense had retained an expert in pathology who has reviewed the medical reports regarding the toddler.

The defense is awaiting a written report on the expert’s finding.

Moore said the defense has yet to decide if it will file motions regarding two taped interviews by authorities with Burkett.

Along with charges of both first- and third-degree murder, Burkett also is charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and child endangerment.

In December, Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan said the prosecution would not be seeking the death penalty should Burkett be convicted of first-degree murder.

He would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder.

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