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UPDATE: Man facing murder charges following death of young boy

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 11:54 AM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - UPDATE: An 11-year-old boy has died from injuries sustained during a severe beating last week in Fergus Falls. Court documents say the boy died at Sanford Hospital on Aug. 7. An autopsy determined his death to be a homicide as a result of being a battered child.

The man authorities say is responsible for the beating is now being charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter.

56-year-old Reggie Bethel was previously charged with first-degree assault, malicious punishment of a child and child endangerment, all felonies.

Court documents say Fergus Falls Police were called to the 1100 block of S. Mill St. just before 9 a.m. on July 29 for a child with a head injury. Bethel told officers the boy was cleaning up dog urine and feces on the floor when he slipped and fell backwards.

Officers say the boy was on the couch unresponsive when they arrived. The child had fresh cuts under his chin, cuts on his forehead, right eye and ear, as well as bruising on his left eye and cheek, documents say. Documents also allege the child had a large patch of blood on the his shirt.

Doctors later told officers the child’s injuries did not match Bethel’s story of what happened. Doctors told investigators the boy’s injuries were non-accidental and due to significant trauma. The 11-year-old was soon airlifted to a Fargo hospital, where documents say he had a traumatic brain injury, a brain bleed and ‘intracranial pressure.’ Court documents also say the boy was intubated and underwent a ‘bifrontal craniectomy’ surgery with ‘risks that include bleeding, inability to close the scalp and possible death.’

Detectives spoke to the child’s mother who initially told a similar story to Bethel’s. However, documents say the woman later changed her story and stated she had lied because Bethel told her to.

The mother told investigators Bethel banged her child’s head on the floor and wall, documents allege. The woman stated what happened was a normal occurrence and a form of discipline. Documents say the mother heard Bethel bang her son’s head on the floor three times in a row while yelling and swearing at the boy, and then heard Bethel tell the boy he needed to wake up and that he was sorry.

Documents say the victim and his mother had been living with Bethel since November 2020.

When Bethel spoke to investigators, documents say he admitted to getting frustrated with the child, grabbed him by both of his sides of his head and hit the boy’s head against the wall four to five times. Bethel also told investigators that he kicked the child while he was on the floor, documents say. Bethel allegedly admitted to lying in his initial statement because he was scared, as well as admitted to telling the boy’s mother to lie.

Documents say Bethel claims to have anger management problems that he wasn’t able to control.

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