Nurse testifies in decades old child death

Date: 2006-07-01
Source: nctimes.com

Nurse testifies in decades old child death

By: Associated Press -

RENO, Nev. -- A nurse who tried to save the life of a 3-year-old three decades ago testified at a murder trial in the recently reopened case that she and emergency staff suspected the boy had been abused when he was brought to the hospital in 1974.

The woman who adopted him, Katherine Bader Wyman, told doctors James Bader, called J.W., claimed he was injured when he fell out of a lawn chair.

But Sheila Barrett told the Washoe District Court jury on Wednesday the child had bruises all over his body, was extremely dehydrated and that his stomach was distended.

Wyman, now 68, is charged with killing the boy by abuse.

The coroner at the time ruled the death accidental.

Wyman was arrested in 2005 after authorities reopened the case when her daughter, Julie Dunn, came forward and said the boy was physically abused by their mother.

Barrett said the family was told the death was suspicious and an autopsy was necessary. Larry Bader, the father, wanted to know what happened to the boy and signed his permission for the autopsy.

Twenty days later, the coroner ruled J.W. died of an accidental fall from a lawn chair. The ruling said he died after his intestines split and caused a fatal infection. The case was closed.

In the 1980s, the Baders divorced.

Wyman has had two other children who have died.

Tami, who was 12 when her brother died, passed away from toxic shock syndrome, Wyman's lawyer said. And the baby Wyman had at age 19 in Nebraska also died.

The remaining daughter, Julie Dunn, told police in 2005 that she witnessed her mother repeatedly kick and punch the boy in the stomach and abuse him in other ways. She told them the day her brother died, she was alerted by his screams and saw her mother kick him multiple times in the stomach.

A forensic pathologist reviewed the 1974 evidence and determined the boy died of abuse. Severe blunt force, such as from kicking, a car crash or a baseball bat could cause such injuries, she said.

The pathologist also said that J.W.'s injuries were consistent with the child abuse Dunn had reported. Dunn, of Chico, Calif., said she did not report the abuse sooner because her mother threatened her and said her father would kill her, and she and her sister would be placed in foster care because he would be in prison.

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