Family, friends hold vigil for Montgomery County 10-month-old allegedly beaten, raped by father

Christie Ileto Image
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Family, friends hold vigil for 10-month-old killed by father
On Friday, family and community members gathered to remember 10-month-old Zara Scruggs, who was allegedly raped and murdered by her father.

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Family and community members gathered Friday night to remember 10-month-old Zara Scruggs, the Montgomery County infant who died after she was allegedly raped and beaten by her father.

The child's grandparents spoke to a crowd of grieving loved ones outside their Norristown home on a block filled with pink balloons.

"I'm going to miss her," said Zara's grandmother Darlene Smith.

A community rallied behind the 10-month-old's family.

"To hear your child scream and there's nothing you can do, I don't want any mother to feel what I felt that night," said Smith.

RELATED: Montgomery County father arrested on sex assault, aggravated assault charges in death of 10-month-old child

Officials in Montgomery County announced Tuesday the arrest of a man on charges related to the death of his 10-month-old daughter.

The 10-month-old, who affectionately was called 'Moo' by family members, was described as a smart, playful, and loving child.

The Smiths never suspected this past Saturday would be the last time they would see her alive.

"Not that we ever thought it would be last time? No. Did we ever see any kind of problem? No. No signs at all," Smith said.

The child's father Austin Stevens had a joint custody agreement with Zara's mother, according to authorities.

A search warrant of Stevens' phone showed that he had conducted multiple Google searches for nearly an hour before calling 911, authorities said. Subjects included "If baby stop breathing," "what if you don't hear baby heart or beat," "my baby isn't breathing," and "how do you know if a baby is dead."

"This case is deeply disturbing. It is hard to imagine this child's death being any more traumatic: sexual assault on an infant, followed by inaction by the father to save her life, led to her death," District Attorney Kevin Steele said earlier this week.

Stevens' mother Tiffany Santangelo condemned her son's alleged behavior.

"He is a monster. We do not support him at all," said Santangelo. "We are completely against this act that he did to my granddaughter. We loved her."

10-month-old Zara Scruggs with mother Erica.

Zara's mother was too upset to speak. She could only say she was speechless to see the number of people that showed up at the vigil for her daughter.

"Zara was loved by many," said Darlene Smith. "She was special. I didn't know how special until I've seen all this love."

The child's funeral is set for Monday.