Lower bail denied for child abuse suspect
Janice Peterson - Daily Herald
PROVO -- A Provo 4th District judge denied a request to lower bail for a woman accused of violently abusing her adopted 5-year-old daughter.
Leslie Erickson, 48, is being held at the Utah County Jail with a $50,000 cash bail on three second-degree charges of inflicting serious physical injury on a child intentionally. Her husband, Gary, also is charged in the case. Her attorney, Michael Langford, asked the judge to allow the bail to be bondable, which would enable Erickson to get out of jail by paying a bond company a lower amount.
Langford told the judge that his client has strong ties to the community, where her entire family lives, and has passed four background checks in four years.
"She has absolutely no criminal history whatsoever," he said.
Prosecutor Donna Kelly, however, said she is very opposed to the bail being lowered. She said the bail may already be too low for such a serious case. Kelly said Erickson has no criminal history because her alleged crimes were against children, who could not report them.
"One of the little girls had to have half of her skull removed because her brain was so badly damaged," she said.
Kelly said she believes Erickson is a serious risk to the community and to children. Judge Steven Hansen agreed and refused to lower the bail, citing a serious public safety issue.
Langford also requested a preliminary hearing in the case, in which the burden will be on prosecutors to show probable cause to take Erickson to trial. He also requested copies of the evidence, which he said he has not been able to review yet. The preliminary hearing has been set for April 27.
Langford said the allegations against his client are very serious, but they are still only allegations. Although he has not seen the state's evidence, Langford said he has done his own investigation into the case.
"I believe that my client's innocent," he said.
Leslie Erickson was arrested March 23 after she and her husband took their 5-year-old daughter to a fire station, saying she had fallen and hit her head, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office. The girl's condition quickly deteriorated and she was flown by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Medical Center. While Leslie Erickson reportedly claimed the girl tripped on a rug 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 Erickson and her husband 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 were also allegedly physically abused, and all three children were allegedly forced to stand for hours without meals and forced to stand in a tub for hours if they wet their beds.
Erickson allegedly told police she disciplines the children by striking the bottoms of their feet and toes with a belt, while Gary Erickson reportedly also admitted using a belt on the children. Gary Erickson was not arrested at the time, but subpoenaed to appear in court and was later charged with the same counts as his wife.
Outside of court, Kelly said if the 5-year-old girl's skull had not been removed, she likely would have died. It was swelling so dramatically and so quickly that it would have cut off vital functions, she said.
The girl is still recovering, and it will be difficult to determine what permanent brain damage has resulted until the girl begins school and different cognitive functions are required, Kelly said.
"We may not know for years what the extent of the damage is," she said.
The alleged abuse of three of Erickson's children spanned a period of a few years. All three children who were allegedly abused by Erickson were adopted, Kelly said.
"She seemed to target the adopted children," she said.