Neighbor, child welfare official stunned after arrest of foster father for child abuse


BRECKNOCK TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY—

The lights are off and nobody's been home at 377 Staver Road in Brecknock Township. It's a difficult sight for Mike Goddard, whose neighbor of several years, Joshua Martin, 23, was arrested last week after State Police say he viciously abused and punched his three-year-old foster daughter, Belle, in their home.

"Total disbelief. It's even hard to comprehend. To understand what's happened over there," Goddard said.

Belle has been in critical condition for more than a week, after she was taken to Reading Hospital in an unresponsive state with a traumatic brain injury. She was then transported to Hershey Medical Center.

"What he did was horrible. But I knew these guys. And they were beautiful people, they were nice people," Goddard added.

Jim Laughman, director of Lancaster County's Department of Human Services, said Martin and his wife easily passed a thorough background check and screening process before Belle and her two younger siblings were placed in their home.

"There was nothing that would indicate anything at all. Sometimes people do bad things and you can't control some of that. We wish we could. We would prevent a lot of tragedies in this world if we could predict the future," Laughman said.

Goddard said his thoughts are now with Martin's wife, Marla, who is not charged with any crime, and the little girl still fighting for her life in Hershey Medical Center's ICU.

"God bless that little girl," he said. "I really hope she comes out of this."

Members of Belle's biological family are planning a candlelight vigil for Saturday. October 6th at 8 p.m. at Sam Lewis Park in Wrightsville, York County. Family members encourage the public to attend.