A Collegeville man pleaded guilty Tuesday to beating his wife and young children for years inside their home in what prosecutors called the worst domestic-violence case in recent Montgomery County history.
Taking the stand in a red prison jumpsuit, Joseph Myhre, 45, calmly admitted to shocking his son and daughter with an electric dog collar, sticking needles under their nails until they bled, sitting on them as he choked them, and beating them with PVC pipe and sticks, causing serious brain injuries. He also admitted to stabbing his wife's hand with a steak knife and beating her repeatedly.
After Myhre pleaded guilty to dozens of counts, Montgomery County Judge Wendy G. Rothstein sentenced him to 20 to 40 years in prison.
"There is no excuse," Rothstein said. "You were supposed to protect them, not hurt them."
Myhre was arrested in April and charged with nearly 150 counts of child abuse. The abuse began when the younger child was 4 or 5, Myhre's wife told authorities, and became a daily occurrence.
Before the sentencing, his wife, who has filed for divorce, spoke about the torture she and her son, now 14, and daughter, now 12, had endured behind closed doors.
"All three of us protected Joseph," she said, allowing him to live, by all appearances, as "a loving husband and father."
In reality, however, the woman and children were "often praying for their own deaths in hopes of an escape," she said.
Aside from physical injuries, all three suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and lasting emotional injuries, she said. As a parent, she said, she now must undo the "years of horrible examples" set by her husband.
The woman said she is fortunate to count herself among the survivors of domestic violence, and thanked family, friends and authorities for helping save her life and the lives of her children.
"We escaped. We lived," she said. "So many do not."
As the judge asked Myhre if he had anything to say, his wife walked out of the courtroom.
"I have profound regret and sorrow for my actions towards my wife and children," said Myhre, who showed little emotion throughout the 45-minute proceeding.
Authorities began to investigate Myhre last March, when his wife arrived at Einstein Medical Center in the middle of the night with a fractured skull. She told police her husband had held her down and repeatedly punched her in the back of the head during an argument. Out of fear he might attack again, the woman told police, she waited until he went to sleep before driving herself to the hospital. Myhre was charged with assault and harassment in that case and released on bail.
In the course of that domestic-violence investigation, authorities found that Myhre had also been abusing his children. In interviews, the children told police how their father would shock them with an electric dog collar (the family never owned a dog, police said), bang their heads against the hardwood floor and the wall, and choke them until they felt like they might pass out.
In a search of the family's Greene's Way Circle home, authorities found closed wooden boxes with air holes instead of beds in the children's rooms.
After Myhre's arrest on child-abuse charges, he was also arraigned on additional charges that he beat his wife over the years to the point that she became permanently disfigured.
Myhre has been held at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility since April. He will serve out his sentence at Graterford Prison. He was ordered not to have any contact with his wife or children, unless the children choose to initiate contact with him after April 11, 2023.
The children were not in the courtroom for Tuesday's guilty plea.