exposing the dark side of adoption
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Woman on Trial in Washoe County For 1974 Murder of Adopted Son


A nurse who tried to save the life of a 3-year-old boy 33 years ago says she and emergency staff suspected the boy had been abused when he was brought to the hospital in 1974.

The woman who adopted him, Katherine Bader Wyman, told doctors James Bader, called J.W., claimed he was injured when he fell out of a lawn chair.

But Sheila Barrett says the child had bruises all over his body, was extremely dehydrated and that his stomach was distended.

Barrett testified yesterday in the trial of Wyman, now 68, who is charged with killing the boy by abuse.

The coroner at the time ruled the death accidental.

Wyman was arrested in 2005 after authorities reopened the case when her daughter, Julie Dunn, came forward and said the boy was physically abused by their mother.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Doctors say they suspected child abuse when they tried to save a 3-year-old Sparks boy more than three decades ago.

But the coroner at the time who had no medical training ruled the 1974 death of James "J.W." Bader an accident.

The doctor's testimony came during the first day of trial for 68-year-old Catherine Bader Wyman, charged with killing her adopted son through abuse.

Investigators reopened the case in 2005 after Wyman's estranged daughter, Julie Dunn, told police the little boy was abused.

Wyman's lawyer says his client is innocent. He says Dunn made the allegations against her mother out of revenge for divorcing her father in the 1980s and to spare her dad, who has since died, from being a suspect.

When the boy was taken to the hospital, authorities say Wyman told doctors he had fallen off a lawn chair.

Dunn, who was 15 when her brother died, told authorities that she felt guilty about not talking earlier. She said her father's 2004 death and her cancer diagnosis prompted her to seek justice for J.W.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


A former Sparks woman is scheduled to go on trial in Washoe County District Court for the death of her adopted three-year-old son more than three decades ago.

68-year-old Catherine Wyman is charged with first-degree murder in the 1974 death of James "JW" Bader. She has pleaded not guilty and has been free on 300,000-dollar bail.

At the time, Wyman told police that the boy died at a Reno hospital after falling off a lawn chair. The coroner ruled the death accidental, and the case was closed.

But in 2005, the boy's older sister, Julie Dunn of Chico, California, stepped forward with new information that led to her mother's arrest.

Among other things, Dunn said she saw her mother ram JW's head into a post in their backyard, and repeatedly kick and punch him in the stomach.

Wyman's lawyer denies his client abused the boy and claims her estranged daughter is a liar.

While he did not conclude the boy's death was a homicide at the time, the doctor who performed his autopsy in 1974 told a grand jury last year that he now thinks JW died of child abuse.

2007 Jun 21