Couple accused of imprisoning adopted daughter

From staff reports

A couple have been charged in Clarion County with endangering the welfare of a child and false imprisonment for physically restraining their adopted daughter, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

The charges were filed Tuesday against Samantha Ann Ferguson, 26, and her husband, Joseph J. Ferguson, 35. Online court dockets say the Fergusons live in Corsica in Jefferson County, but a press release from Shapiro identifies the two as a Clarion County couple.

The press release from Shapiro says an investigation revealed that Samantha Ferguson punished one of her adopted daughters by keeping her in a utility closet with exposed electrical wires, piping and other sensitive household hardware that could pose a danger to children if left alone in the dark.

The young girl is diagnosed with ADHD, but Samantha Ferguson had taken her off her medication due to religious beliefs, the press release said.

In one instance, Samantha Ferguson caught her daughter playing in the closet when she was supposed to be sitting still as instructed, for punishment, according to the press release. As a result, Samantha Ferguson handcuffed and/or duct-taped her hands together every time she was sent to the closet, the press release said.

In another instance, when the girl yelled out in pain and to be released from the handcuffs and tape put on her wrists, Samantha Ferguson placed duct tape over her mouth to keep her quiet, the release said.

It is also alleged that Samantha Ferguson cuffed her daughter to the bedpost as a form of punishment, only lettering her out to be fed depending on the time of day, according to the release.

Joseph Ferguson admitted to being aware of the details and agreeing to and witnessing the punishment administered to the girl by his wife, the release said.

The girl and her sister, who was also adopted by the Fergusons, were undergoing trauma therapy for sexual and physical abuse in their prior home, the release said.

Both girls are currently in custody of Children & Youth Services.

Online court dockets for the Fergusons list the offense date for these incidents as Oct. 21, 2016.

The investigation was initiated by a Pennsylvania Childline report that was called in to Pennsylvania Child Welfare Services in October 2018.

The case was referred to Shapiro’s office by Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron, according to Shapiro.

Samantha Ferguson has been charged with felony counts of false imprisonment of minor, conspiracy-false imprisonment of minor and endangering the welfare of children, and a misdemeanor count of corruption of minors.

Joseph Ferguson is charged with two felony counts of false imprisonment of minor and single felony counts of false imprisonment of minor and endangering the welfare of children.

The Fergusons were arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Clarion County before district judge Duane Quinn. Unsecured bail was set at $20,000 for both defendants.

Preliminary hearings for the Fergusons are scheduled April 2 before Quinn.