Eagle Mountain couple pleads guilty to abusing their children

Date: 2011-08-24

Jim Dalrymple - Daily Herald

PROVO -- In a wavering, barely audible whisper, a mother pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to abusing her children. Seconds later, her husband quietly bowed his head and pleaded guilty as well.

Moments earlier, attorneys for Leslie Erickson, 49, and Gary Erickson, 61, told the court that the couple's charges were the result of serious physical injuries that were knowingly inflicted on their children. Leslie pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree child abuse, as well as two class A misdemeanors for child abuse. Gary pleaded guilty to three class A misdemeanors for child abuse.

Leslie originally was charged with five second-degree felonies and Gary was charged with three second-degree felonies, all for child abuse. Prosecutors reduced the charges as part of a plea bargain.

Leslie's attorney Michael Langford told the court Tuesday that she had intentionally harmed her young daughter in 2010 while living in Eagle Mountain. The girl sustained serious injuries to her head, hands and neck, Langford said. He also told the court that sometime between 2007 and 2010 Leslie had "negligently caused serious injuries" to two adopted children.

Gary's attorney Robert M. Archuleta told the court that Gary also had intentionally caused physical injury to two children between 2007 and 2010.

Leslie was arrested March 23, 2010, after she and Gary drove their 5-year-old daughter to a fire station, claiming she had fallen and hit her head, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office. However, the girl's condition quickly deteriorated and she was flown to Primary Children's Medical Center. While Leslie reportedly claimed the girl tripped and hit her head on the bathroom floor, doctors told investigators the girl's injuries were caused by a force equal to an unrestrained child hitting her head on a windshield in a car accident. She also allegedly had injuries consistent with strangulation and injuries in various stages of healing from "head to toe."

According to police, both Leslie and Gary withheld information or gave false statements to doctors when asked how long the girl was without oxygen. They also allegedly provided false written information to investigators.

Two boys also were physically abused, according to prosecutors, and all three children were allegedly forced to stand for hours without meals. If the children wet their beds they were reportedly required to stand in a tub for hours as well.

Leslie allegedly told police she disciplines the children by striking the bottoms of their feet and toes with a belt, while Gary reportedly also admitted to using a belt on the children. Gary was not arrested when his wife was taken into custody, but was charged later.

Following the Ericksons' hearing Tuesday, Archuleta said that the entire experience had been difficult for the couple.

"What a hellish experience they've been through," he said. "They lost nine children as a result of these allegations."

Prosecutor Julia Thomas said that the children have since been adopted and that they are in therapy.

"A primary concern of mine was to ensure their safety," she said.

The Ericksons will both be sentenced on Oct. 4. Leslie faces a possible one- to 15-year sentence in prison for her second-degree felony conviction, as well as up to a year in jail for each misdemeanor. Gary also could receive a year in jail for each of his misdemeanor convictions. Thomas said that prosecutors have not made any agreements with the couple regarding sentencing recommendations.

• Janice Peterson contributed to this story.

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