Editor's note: This story was first published July 24, 2019.
The man charged with killing his sister and niece in Lancaster last week was on the brink of being arrested in a sexual abuse investigation, according to officials and court documents detailing new charges against him.
East Lampeter Township police began investigating James Sterbinsky in March after a 14-year-old girl reported he had assaulted her, according to charging documents and officials.
The department filed charges in the assault case Wednesday. Sterbinsky, 56, has been in Lancaster County Prison since Friday on two counts of homicide and one count of attempted homicide.
Sterbinsky fatally stabbed his sister Christine Ross, 53, and niece Autumn Ross, 20, at his 557 High St. apartment Thursday, according to city police. He also injured his nephew, Christopher Jacyszyn, who remains hospitalized, according to family.
East Lampeter police began investigating the sexual assault March 25, when Lancaster County Children and Youth notified them that a young, teen girl reported she had been assaulted by Sterbinsky in January. She said he was “high on methamphetamine” when the offense happened, according to charging documents.
In interviews, the teen described multiple occasions of misconduct by Sterbinsky at a home in the 1800 block of Lincoln Highway East in East Lampeter Township and an apartment on Church Road in Providence Township, where Sterbinsky lived.
Sterbinsky is charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors related to sexual offenses against a person younger than age 16.
Timing of charges
The Lancaster County district attorney’s office had approved of the sexual abuse charges “relatively recently” before the homicides, office spokesman Brett Hambright said.
“It is our understanding that the police were making arrangements to arrest the defendant in a controlled environment. Given the circumstances, this was not unreasonable,” Hambright said.
While both the homicide and the abuse case involve Sterbinsky, the alleged victims are “separate and unrelated,” he said.
“No one could have foreseen what took place on July 18. It certainly compounds the already terrible tragedy, but all we can do at this point is ensure that justice is done,” Hambright said.
Asked about the timing of the sexual abuse charges, East Lampeter Township police spokesman Lt. Matthew Hess said in an email, “The Detective conducted a thorough investigation and followed proper District Attorney protocol for approval of criminal charges which were then filed.”
Hess said he couldn’t comment further.
Sterbinsky spent time in state prison from December 2013 to March 2017 after pleading guilty to burglary, theft and illegal firearm possession regarding a 2011 burglary in Drumore Township, according to court and prison records.
His sentence had a minimum of three years and fourth months and a maximum of 10 years. He was released on parole, according to state prison records.