Woman accused of murder to face grand jury proceedings

Date: 2006-06-24

By Jaclyn O'Malley

jomalley@rgj.com

Grand jury proceedings are expected to take place next week against a 66-year-old former Sparks woman recently accused of murdering her adopted toddler 32 years ago.

Catherine Wyman, formerly Catherine Bader, was arraigned Thursday in Reno Justice Court on a warrant charging her with the murder and child abuse of James "J.W." Bader, who died in August 1974.

During a hearing Friday in Washoe District Court, officials said the grand jury is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning about the Bader case. A possible indictment against Wyman could come from that meeting. The 66-year-old will not testify during the proceedings, her attorney Martin Wiener said.

Wyman remains at the Washoe County Jail without bail.

Washoe District Judge Jerome Polaha on Friday denied Wiener's requests to dismiss the charges against her and to delay the grand jury's decision on indictment until he could present the prosecutor exculpatory evidence that could be introduced during the jury's proceedings.

Wyman was arrested at her home in a Phoenix suburb and held in the Maricopa County Jail until June 16, when she was picked up by a prisoner transport service that drove her to Reno. She arrived Wednesday in Reno.

Authorities in 1974 ruled J.W. died from injuries suffered from falling off a lawn chair at his adopted sister Julie Dunn's softball game. When the siblings returned home, the boy complained of stomach pain and was taken to a hospital where he died. His death was ruled an accident.

But a tip from Dunn to Sparks police last year asking them to revisit the case prompted local forensic pathologist, Dr. Ellen Clark, to review the case. Dunn said she witnessed her mother repeatedly kick and punch the boy in the stomach, including the day he died, that she slammed toilet seats on his genitals, held his hands in boiling water, held his head underwater in the bathtub and rammed his head into a backyard post.

Dr. Clark determined J.W., who was covered in bruises, died from a fatal infection caused by the rupture of his intestines. While the same cause of death was reported in 1974, police said it's possible a lack of experience in child abuse cases during that time may have led to the accidental ruling.

Clark said very forceful and blunt trauma had to have occurred and would not have happened from a fall from a lawn chair.

Wiener said his client is innocent. He challenged Clark's findings. He said Dunn has been estranged from her mother for years and may have tipped police to retaliate for her parents' divorce in the late 1980s.

Wyman's arrest prompted authorities in Fremont, Neb. to reopen the death investigation of Catherine and Larry Bader's 10-month-old daughter Kimmie, who died there in 1963. No charges have been filed in connection with Kimmie's death.

Larry Bader died in 2004. Julie Dunn is her mother's only living child. The couple had a third daughter, Tammi, who died of toxic shock syndrome when she was 21.

J.W. had been abandoned in a Las Vegas casino and Larry Bader, a Reno firefighter and business owner, desperately wanted a son, said his sister, Virginia Dunn. Wyman was the boy's primary caregiver. Dunn told police her mother was frustrated with the boy's disabilities and was resentful that he was adopted.

During Friday's hearing, Wyman was tearful as she was led into the court and saw her husband, James Wyman. As she was being led back to jail, she told her husband she loved him.

Wiener said Wyman, who is retired, worked in real estate and was a horticulturist.

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