PITTSBURGH — A former state prosecutor's wife who is serving six to 12 months in jail for endangering her two adopted Ethiopian children can leave for eight hours each weekday to care for the couple's biological children.
An Allegheny County judge modified the sentence of Kristen Barbour, 32, on Friday over the objections of county prosecutors.
Barbour and her husband Douglas, 35, were sentenced last month after pleading no-contest to child endangerment counts in June. Douglas Barbour, who pleaded to misdemeanor charges and was placed on probation, resigned from the state attorney general's office after the couple was charged in October 2012.
That's when their 6-year-old adopted son was being malnourished and an 18-month-old girl had multiple head fractures in various stages of healing. Doctors found evidence of abuse when the boy was treated for an infection in a month earlier. The boy weighed 37.5 pounds (17 kilograms), nearly 10 pounds (5 kilograms) less than when he had been adopted, and told investigators he was forced to eat meals in the bathroom or stand alone in there whenever he urinated or defecated in his pants. The girl's injuries have never been explained.
Kristen Barbour, a stay-at-home mom who was the children's primary caregiver, received a stiffer sentence because she pleaded to felony-graded endangerment counts.
Judge Jeffrey Manning arranged for Kristen Barbour to be housed at the Mercer County Jail some 60 miles north of Pittsburgh as part of her modified sentence. That will allow her to be close enough to care for the couple's biological children while released 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.
Douglas Barbour now lives and works at his family's nursery farm in the largely rural county, where Kristen Barbour had also been living before she was sentenced.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer DiGiovanni objected to the modified sentence.
"There's something fundamentally wrong with that. For her to stay at home and serve her sentence, it doesn't impact her life," the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Robert Stewart argued there would be no one to care for the couple's biological children, ages 2 and 5, if she were not granted work release.
"I consider stay-at-home mothers raising children to be a full-time job —without pay," Manning said in agreeing to modify Kristen Barbour's sentence.
The Barbours surrendered custody of their adopted children, who have been adopted by another couple and are said by prosecutors to be thriving.