Nurse testifies in toddler's death 33 years later

Date: 2007-06-21

By Jaclyn O'Malley

jomalley@rgj.com

When Jimmy Jones was adopted by the Bader family of Sparks in 1973, he was an attractive, dark-eyed developmentally-disabled child immediately enamored of his new father, a Reno firefighter.

His mother, Catherine Bader, a homemaker and mother of two daughters, was not as well accepted by the boy, according to adoption records discussed Wednesday during her Washoe District Court trial on a second-degree murder charge for the 3-year-old's death more than three decades ago. The 68-year-old Arizona woman, now Catherine Bader Wyman, has pleaded not guilty.

On Aug. 10. 1974, Wyman took the boy to a Reno emergency room and said James "J.W." Bader became sick after falling off a lawn chair and striking his head.

Sheila Barrett, a nurse who tried to save the boy's life, testified the father, Larry Bader, burst through the emergency room doors in his uniform anxious to find out what was wrong with his son. He and his daughter, Julie, stood by the hospital room doors and watched as doctors and nurses tried to save his life. Wyman sat on a couch in another room, she said.

Barrett testified she and other staff suspected the boy had been abused because of his bruises from head to toe, including his genitals. He was extremely dehydrated and not very responsive. His stomach was severely distended.

When Barrett gave him a comforting pat on his head, she said she found a cut on the top of his scalp.

Barrett said Wyman seemed concerned and confused when police were called to the hospital after J.W. died. She was crying and seemed upset after being told the boy died.

"(Larry Bader) was very much in a hurry to get to his son," Barrett recalled. "He was difficult to get away from the door."

Barrett said the family was told the death was suspicious and an autopsy was necessary. Larry Bader 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, 12 years old 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.

A diagnosis of cancer and her father's passing, along with extreme guilt, caused her to come forward, she told police.

Wyman's attorney said Dunn was angry at her mother for divorcing her father and asked why she would let her own son live with Wyman if she believed Wyman murdered J.W. Dunn is scheduled to testify later.

According to adoption records, J.W. was abandoned by his parents, who asked a woman they met at a Las Vegas casino to watch him while they attended a funeral in California. They never returned.

Larry Bader wanted a son but his wife was told not to attempt childbirth since her previous pregnancies were difficult, records show. When J.W. came to live with the Baders in March of 1973, he had a low level of intelligence, fear of people, trouble communicating, screamed and threw temper tantrums.

Social workers noted he was healthy and ran to Larry Bader in excitement when he returned home from work. They said the boy was doing better with the Baders and his vocabulary increased.

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