Dad gets 2 months in jail for ABCs punishment

OLYMPIA - A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who held his 4-year-old daughter's head underwater in a kitchen sink at their Yelm home as punishment for not reciting the alphabet will spend the next two months in jail.

Joshua Ryan Tabor, 27, was sentenced Thursday; he earlier had pleaded guilty under an Alford plea to three counts of third-degree felony assault of a child, domestic violence, as part of a plea deal. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but concedes there is enough evidence to convict if the case goes forward at trial.

As part of the plea deal, a prosecutor agreed to recommend that Tabor serve one month under a first-time offender waiver. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor refused to accept that recommendation.

Judge Tabor is not related to Joshua Tabor.

The girl is in the custody of her maternal grandmother in Montana.

Tabor’s attorney, Rick Cordes, said in court that his client suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from deployments with the Marines to Iraq and Afghanistan. Cordes said many people would consider Tabor a hero for his service. Tabor is a helicopter mechanic with his unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but “he was on the firing lines with the Marines,” Cordes said.

During sentencing, an official with the prosecutor’s office read a statement by the child’s grandmother that had been submitted to the court. The child’s grandmother, Beth Casebolt, took exception to the claim that Tabor suffers from PTSD.

“I have known Joshua Tabor since November 2003,” Casebolt’s statement reads. “From personal experience, he has gone from bad to worse with his violent behavior toward anyone who disagrees with him and that are weaker than him. Joshua is a bully.”

According to court papers:

Police arrested Tabor on Jan. 31, after Tabor’s girlfriend reported that he was “irate, intoxicated and walking around the neighborhood with his Kevlar helmet threatening to break windows.” During the police investigation, an officer noticed severe bruises on Tabor’s daughter’s back. Asked how she got them, she said, “Daddy did it.”

Tabor later told a police officer that he and his girlfriend “held (the 4-year-old) down on the counter and submerged her head into the water three or four times until the water came around her forehead and jawline,” court papers state. Tabor said she was face-up when her head was in the water. He added that it was punishment for the child “refusing to say her letters.”

Tabor’s then-girlfriend, Callie Combs, 26, faces three counts of second-degree assault of a child, domestic violence, for allegedly participating in the abuse. Her case is pending.

According to Casebolt’s written statement read aloud in court, her granddaughter suffers from recurring nightmares that her father is trying to drown her. She also suffers from hearing loss resulting from blows to the head, and that hearing loss might be permanent.

“To this day, she is deathly afraid of water on her face, where she would swim underwater prior to arriving at Joshua’s home,” the statement continued.

Casebolt added that “anytime (her granddaughter) sees someone in military fatigues she begins to shake and cry out of sheer terror.”

Tabor addressed the court before he was sentenced. He said that the months after his arrest have been “the biggest test of my life.” He did not directly apologize for his actions, instead saying, “I’ve made mistakes in my life.” Tabor also pointed to his military service, stating that “I’m still proud to say I wore my uniform for this country.”

In court Thursday, Cordes asked for language to be inserted into the judgment against Tabor and sentence that would allow him to possess a firearm, arguing that such language might have given Tabor a better chance of continuing his military career. Judge Tabor refused. Cordes said it is unlikely that Tabor will continue his military career with a felony conviction.

Catherine Caruso, a Lewis-McChord spokeswoman, said Thursday that the commander of Tabor’s unit will have to review the sentence to determine whether Tabor will be allowed to continue on active duty. Caruso said the inability to legally carry a firearm normally bars soldiers from re-enlisting.

Jeremy Pawloski: 36-754-5465