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Elk Co. pastor and wife make plea in child endangerment case
By: WJAC Web Staff
SMETHPORT, Pa. -- An Elk County pastor and his wife have entered pleas in the case where they were accused of endangering and underfeeding their three adoptive children.
The Kane Republican reported Monday that Mark Hooper, 43, and Susan Hooper, 43, of Mount Jewett, entered no contest pleas to child endangerment charges in McKean County court.
As a result of the pleas, both will avoid a trial that was scheduled to begin Jan. 6, and the child endangerment charges will be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. The Hoopers were charged each with three counts of endangering the welfare of children.
An initial state police investigation showed that the couple allegedly underfed and withheld meals from their children, ages 9 to 11, as punishment. Police said they started looking into the couple after their youngest child ran away from home in February and told a neighbor about the lack of food and the punishments.
McKean County District Attorney Ray Learn said the plea deal spares the children from testifying at trial. Attorneys for the Hoopers said the plea deal is the best outcome for the couple.
The children are now in the custody of foster parents.
The couples sentencing is scheduled for February.
Mark Hooper was the pastor at the Cobb Street Baptist Church in Johnsonburg, Elk County, at the time the charges were filed.