Guilty plea in child’s drowning death

A Marietta man pleaded guilty Friday in Washington County Common Pleas Court to a third-degree felony count of child endangerment in relation to the March 18 drowning death of a nearly 2-year-old boy in his care.

Joshua D. Sciance, 25, of 111 W. Montgomery St. Lot 12, remained expressionless as Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider outlined how Sciance had found 23-month-old Connar Hilton facedown in the water after leaving the boy and his 3-year-old sister unattended in the bathtub for at least 20 minutes.

Sciance had been living with the children’s mother in Beverly and was babysitting them while she was at work, said Schneider.

“Mr. Sciance had determined the children needed a bath…He initially said to people he came back in about five minutes (after leaving them unattended) and found the child underwater,” said Schneider.

However, Sciance subsequently told law enforcement he had left to cook himself dinner and was probably gone 15 to 20 minutes before checking on the children. He also told officers he had started drinking at 2 p.m. and consumed eight 16-ounce beers that day.

Hilton was transported to Nationwide Children Hospital and kept alive for a short time on life support. However, he eventually died of injuries that an autopsy attributed to a near drowning. He was less than a week away from his second birthday.

Sciance was indicted that same month on the third-degree felony charge of endangering children, which stipulates that Sciance’s negligence resulted in the serious physical harm of a child in his care.

Sciance faces up to three years in prison on the charge.

“You could also be ordered to make restitution to the victim’s family, such as funeral expenses and the like,” noted Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane.

In exchange for the plea, Schneider said the state would not oppose a community control sanction coupled with a six-month jail sentence. He would also not oppose judicial release after six months should Sciance be sent to prison, he said.

If Sciance is sentenced to community control, drug and alcohol treatment programs will likely be mandated as part of his sentence, said Lane.

Sciance’s sentencing is scheduled for 8 a.m. Nov. 19.