2016-06-30 / Front Page

Forksville Man Charged for Sexually Assaulting, Murdering Toddler

Details in Investigation of Child's Death Released

A Forksville man faces a slew of charges after allegedly sexually assaulting and murdering an 18-month-old girl in New Albany Borough in last summer.

Jeremiah “J.C.” Cordell, 27, is locked up in the Bradford County Correctional Facility without bail, facing charges of murder of the second degree, murder of the third degree, aggravated assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault.

According to a police criminal complaint, it all began on Sept. 14, 2015, when emergency medical services responded to a residence along Hubler Street in New Albany for a report of a deceased 18-month-old female. The victim was lying in an upstairs bedroom on her back, wearing only a diaper. She was pronounced dead by Bradford County Coroner Thomas Carman.

The victim’s mother, Jessica Arnold, gave police consent to search the residence for evidence. She told police she had been working on Sept. 13 and her fiancé, Cordell, watched her three-year-old and the victim while she was gone. Arnold’s 16-year-old daughter was also at the residence while she worked.

She claims the toddler was acting normally when she arrived home. Arnold ran some errands in Wysox with the victim and ate at a restaurant where the child didn’t seem to be having any difficulty eating.

Arnold later went to drop her older daughter off at her father’s home in Muncy Valley and once again left the victim in Cordell’s care. She reportedly received a text from Cordell saying the toddler had vomited. She arrived home and peeked in the bedroom to see the victim sleeping. She later came in the room to wake the child up and found she was not breathing. Cordell was told to call 9-1-1, which he did.

The 18-month-old girl was pronounced deceased and a subsequent autopsy was performed, which determined the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, with the manner being homicide. A sexual assault kit was also used in the autopsy.

Police interviewed Cordell about the incident on several occasions and his version of the events changed numerous times from “nothing happened” to “I don’t remember” to “something could have happened” and he “accidentally dropped her on her head on the steps leading into the bathroom” when he went to give her a bath.

He said the victim hit the back of her head on the steps and when he picked her up, he cradled her head as she cried. He said he bathed and dressed her prior to her vomiting. Cordell said he cleaned it up and put her to bed.

The final summary of the autopsy performed by Dr. James Terzian of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, NY, indicated the child died from acute inflicted traumatic head injuries, consistent with both impact and shaking.

The sexual assault kit was sent to the Wyoming Regional Laboratory for analysis. The results, issued in December 2015, indicated the child’s shirt she had been wearing prior to her death had spermatozoa on it as did the towel used to clean the victim after she vomited. A search warrant was prepared for two buccal swabs from Cordell, which matched his DNA with the DNA found on the fabrics.

An arrest warrant was later issued for Cordell, who was arraigned on the aforementioned charges by Magisterial District Judge Timothy Clark. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 13. 

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