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MAHONING VALLEY Authorities check abuse allegations



Published: Tue, April 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The woman accused of killing her daughter has been diagnosed with a mental illness, her lawyer says.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

and TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Sheriff's Department and the county's children services agency have started looking into allegations that Samantha Martin, 6, was sexually assaulted before her death.

Meanwhile, in Warren, members of Trumbull County's Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children raised a flag in memory of Samantha.

Miriam Fife of POMC and several other group members gathered in front of the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department around noon Monday to pray for Samantha, who died Friday.

Authorities say the girl's mother, Sherry Delker, 27, of North Turner Road, Austintown, ran over her daughter with a car. Delker pleaded innocent to a charge of aggravated murder and is being held without bond in Trumbull County Jail. She is scheduled to return to Trumbull County Common Pleas Court on April 8.

"We want to be here for Samantha," Fife said. "We are raising the flag in her honor."

What was found: The Mahoning County Coroner's Office said the autopsy showed Samantha, who died of multiple internal injuries, had been sexually abused.

Authorities in both counties are investigating because the girl and her mother lived in Austintown in Mahoning County, but the girl died in Weathersfield Township in Trumbull County.

Samantha was pronounced dead Friday in St. Elizabeth Health Center, Youngstown.

Mahoning sheriff's Detective Martin Marsico confirmed that he's investigating the sexual aspect of the case.

Marsico said no agency was aware of the abuse to Samantha while she was alive. He is assigned to Mahoning County Children Services Board to investigate physical and sexual abuse complaints.

Atty. Anthony Consoldane, who represents Delker, said he asked his client if she knew that her daughter was abused and she said yes.

"I'm just not really sure if she did know or if she is just saying that because she was told that," Consoldane said. He said Delker did not tell him who may have abused the girl.

Consoldane said authorities are saying that Delker told police she wanted to "send her daughter to a better place" and she wanted to "stop the abuse."

Mental illness diagnosis: Consoldane said he also was told his client has been diagnosed with a mental illness and he does not know if she was taking her medication.

An affidavit filed with the court by the prosecutor's office says Delker told state troopers that her boyfriend did not want to date a woman with children.

Police think the killing occurred Friday morning on Prospect Street near state Route 46 in Mineral Ridge, next to St. Mary Church. Scuff marks that could have been made when a body was dragged by a car were found on Prospect Street, and clothes were embedded in the pavement, the affidavit states.

Crime lab officers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol also found a tire tread on Samantha's shirt that resembled the tread on Delker's car's front tires. The vehicle is a black, 1990 two-door Chevrolet Lumina.

Delker told police she went to the church to ask forgiveness after sending her daughter to the "better place."

Delker had first told police at the morgue that a white woman driving a blue pickup or minivan had hit Samantha on Prospect Street. The woman then drove away, Delker said.

Weathersfield police called the state patrol for help.

What affidavit says: When questioned by police Friday evening, the affidavit states, Delker admitted killing Samantha and said she lied about the woman in the blue minivan.

The affidavit says one witness saw a woman pull something from under a car and put it in the back seat Friday morning. He thought it was a dog or an animal.

Another witness said she saw a woman in a dark car near the church. There was a young girl outside the car, wearing high-heeled shoes and skipping. The girl's father lives in Warren, police said.

sinkovich@vindy.com yovich@vindy.com




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