Witness: Bader's son died of child abuse

Date: 2007-06-27

By Jaclyn O'Malley

jomalley@rgj.com

A forensic pathologist testified Tuesday that a 3-year-old boy did not die in 1974 of what his adopted mother said was an accidental fall from a lawn chair, but of severe child abuse.

Dr. Ellen Clark in 2005 was asked to review the evidence in the Aug. 10, 1974, death of James "J.W." Bader after his adopted sister told police their mother repeatedly abused the boy: kicking him in the stomach on a daily basis, ramming his head through fence posts and slamming toilet seats on his genitals.

Julie Bader Dunn said her mother told her to keep the abuse a secret or the family would be split. Guilt and the death of her father in 2004 prompted her to come forward to seek justice for her developmentally disabled brother, she said.

Catherine Bader Wyman, 68, has been on trial on a murder charge since June 18. She pleaded not guilty.

Clark reviewed the original autopsy report and related information collected after the boy's death and determined his bowels split due to abuse and caused a fatal infection.

Wyman had told authorities that the boy fell off a lawn chair while they were watching Dunn's softball game. She said he later got sick and died.

Dunn said she had seen her mother kick her brother in the stomach up and down the length of their backyard in Sparks earlier that morning. Clark said J.W.'s symptoms of being thirsty, having a distended stomach and having a stomach ache are consistent with having just been struck with blunt force trauma.

She said it is common for children to receive blunt force trauma and later develop symptoms.

Clark said his injury would have been extremely painful. She added that the boy would not necessarily have bruises to match kicks he received to the abdomen.

When he was brought into the hospital, he was covered head to toe in bruises, including his genitals. Doctors had suspected child abuse and called police.

Authorities now say the accidental death ruling was never challenged because of a lack of training and experience in child abuse cases.

Wyman's attorney, Martin Wiener, denies she abused the boy and blamed the injuries on her deceased daughter, Tami Dunn, and even her ex-husband, retired Reno firefighter Larry Bader, now deceased.

Dunn testified that she told her dying father the secret about her brother's abuse and that she was going to turn in her mother.

"He said go get her, tiger," she said.

Wyman, she said, told her if she revealed the abuse, Larry Bader would kill her and then be sent to prison.

"She said she was going to burn in hell for what she did to J.W.," Dunn testified.

She also said her mother would tell people her brother died of intestinal problems due to him being malnourished in foster care.

Wiener said Dunn is making up the story to exact revenge on her mother for family problems throughout the years.

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