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Girl had 14 broken bones before fatal fracture


Author: Conrad deFiebre; Staff Writer

A 10-month-old Lakeville girl who died of a fractured skull two weeks ago had suffered 14 other broken bones in the past two months, police said, leading a doctor to note in his medical report "a pattern of ongoing child abuse."

Police, who are investigating the death of Jessica McClure as a homicide, have removed a piece of wall bearing a dent the size of an infant's head from the home of her adoptive parents, Robert and Julie McClure.

No one has been arrested or charged in the case, and Lakeville Police Chief Don Gudmundson said Monday that the investigation may take several more weeks. Complete autopsy results are not expected until late September.

But a search warrant affidavit filed yesterday in Ramsey County District Court points to a series of apparent evasions and changing stories by Julie McClure, as well as efforts by investigators to eliminate Robert McClure from suspicion.

Julie McClure's attorney, Mark McDonough, said yesterday, however, that his client is "absolutely innocent." Police have mischaracterized her statements as inconsistent after harshly interrogating her when Jessica was being removed from life support systems at Minneapolis Children's Medical Center, McDonough said.

"I think her statements are consistent and have been since day one," he said. "The parents have maintained all along that the death is accidental."

McDonough said Jessica's previous injuries could have occurred before she was brought from China and placed in the McClure home at the age of 4 months last February.

The dent in the wall, he said, resulted from a neighborhood boy striking it with a baseball bat in July.

Police said preliminary medical reports indicate that the apparently untreated earlier fractures - involving bones in the hand, wrist, leg, upper arm, collar bone and three ribs - occurred within two months of Jessica's death on Aug. 17.

They said the wall dent contained embedded human hairs similar to those found on Jessica's crib sheet.

Police, meanwhile, have quoted doctors' findings that Jessica's fatal injuries could not have resulted from accidental falls described by her mother.

Julie McClure was the only adult present when police, responding to a hang-up 911 call, found Jessica unconscious and without a heartbeat on Aug. 15.

The mother told officers that she had fallen to the kitchen floor from a standing position, then vomited and stopped breathing.

She later told investigators that Jessica had fallen from a kitchen counter earlier the same day.

She said she had failed to report that fall at first because her husband had told her several times not to leave the baby on the counter.

She added that after the first fall Jessica had been playing with Robert McClure, who described her then as giggling and happy.

Dr. Judd Reaney of Children's Medical Center has told police that neither of the falls would have caused Jessica's skull fracture and severe brain injury, but that if somehow the first one had, she would have lost consciousness immediately.

Police said Julie McClure initially told investigators that Jessica had never fallen or suffered broken bones before Aug. 15.

After being told of the collar bone fracture, however, she described accidental falls from a high chair and a walker.

Last week, police took hair and blood samples from Robert McClure "for elimination purposes" and seized receipts in an effort to establish his whereabouts when Jessica suffered her fatal injuries.

1993 Aug 31