Lawyer challenges pathologist's credibility

Date: 2006-06-23

By Jaclyn O'Malley

jomalley@rgj.com

The lawyer for a 66-year-old former Sparks woman accused of killing her 3-year-old adopted son 32 years ago challenged a pathologist's credibility during an arraignment Thursday on murder and child abuse charges.

Police and medical officials said the death of 3-year-old James "J.W." Bader was due to an infection from ruptured intestines, in an accident in 1974. His mother, Catherine Bader-Wyman, told police he fell from a lawn chair.

The case was reopened after Bader-Wyman's daughter called police last year. Dr. Ellen Clark, a pathologist, said repeated abuse killed the toddler.

Sparks police and local officers June 1 arrested Bader-Wyman at her home in suburban Phoenix. She was extradited and booked into Washoe County Jail at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

According to court documents, Clark saw bruises all over the boy's body and said the amount of force needed to cause J.W.'s fatal injuries was extreme and the result of "very forceful, blunt abdominal trauma, such as repetitive kicking and punching."

Martin Wiener, Bader-Wyman's lawyer, challenged the findings of Clark, who frequently testifies in child abuse cases, but said he needs to review her report.

"The pathologist's findings should be viewed with great suspicions, as should the accusations made by her daughter," Wiener said.

The daughter, Julia Dunn, 49, of Chico, Calif., told police her mother abused the boy repeatedly due to her frustration with his developmental disabilities and resentment that he was adopted. She told of her mother punching and kicking the boy, holding his hands in boiling water and his head under water in the bathtub and ramming his head into a post.

Dunn told police she saw her mother repeatedly kick the boy in the stomach numerous times the day he died. Earlier, he fell from a lawn chair at a softball game. The boy complained of stomach pain at home and was taken to a hospita,l where he died.

Wiener said Dunn might have made the allegations to retaliate for her parents' divorce in the late 1980s.

"(Bader-Wyman) is no scientist, and she told the truth when her son's death was investigated more than 30 years ago," Wiener said.

Dunn has declined to comment. Clark could not be reached.

It was unclear why Dunn waited so many years to make the report, but a relative previously said she was scared of her mother and decided to say something after her father, Larry Bader, died in 2004. He had been a Reno firefighter and owned a construction business.

After the mother's arrest, police detectives in Fremont, Neb., police reopened the investigation of the 1963 death of Bader-Wyman's 10-month-old daughter, Kimmie. Detective Joyce Henke said the case is still being reviewed, and no charges had been filed.

Wiener said his client was stunned when police arrived at her home.

"She was shocked," Wiener said. "She is 66 years old and has never been in trouble for anything and has never been to jail or arrested before.

"She's not guilty of what she's accused of doing. The first she heard about this case is when police showed up at her door. These are terrible accusations.

"We are concerned because until this case concludes, there is a cloud over my client's life."

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