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The defense lawyer for a local day care provider charged with child abuse argued his client was unlikely the one who left scratches on the ears and neck of a boy in her care.

“She chews her nails to the nubs,” Attorney Lloyd Suhr said of his client Marlene Steedsman

Steedsman, 55, a former Bismarck home daycare provider, was on trial Wednesday in South Central District Court for felony child abuse after allegedly grabbing a 3-year-old boy in her care by the ears.

At deadline, the jury had not yet returned a verdict in the case.

Lisa Schauer testified things seemed mostly normal when she picked the boy up from Steedman’s in-home day care on 22nd Street. But while they were in the checkout line at Kmart, she noticed his ear was red, swollen, had lacerations and bruises were forming. Upon asking him what happened, the boy allegedly told her that Steedsman had tried to “break ears off” for having peed his pants.

When Schauer sent her a text message asking about it, Steedsman told her the injury likely occurred when the boy and another 2-year-old she cared for were wrestling. She told Schauer and police investigators she had noticed the boy’s ears were red but was not overly concerned about the severity of injuries. She said she had joked with the boy that they could just rip his ears off and get him new ones.

Schauer said the two children had usually gotten along and had never been told of any physical fights previously by Steedsman. The two still attend day care together at another facility.

Steedsman has since dissolved her daycare.

David Mathison, a physician for Mid Dakota Clinic who examined the boy the evening of the incident, testified to the scratches and bruising inside the boy’s ears and upper ear lobe.

When asked if those injuries could be caused by being put in a headlock while wrestling, Mathison said it was possible if the assailant squeezed hard enough. He said it was unlikely a 2-year-old would be able to do so.

Schauer and others testified the bruising lasted about a week.

Suhr made several other arguments in his client's defense. He questioned why a raised bruise the doctor noted on the child's forehead was not considered further. He said it could corroborate Steedman's story that the boy was hurt while roughhousing.

Suhr also pointed out that the boy did not talk about the event during an interview with the Dakota Children's Advocacy Center a couple weeks later.

Det. Brandon Rask said, because of the boy's young age and the fact that interviewers of children are trained to not ask about an incident directly, it's not uncommon that the kids don't talk about the abuse. 

"I don't ever expect a 3-year-old to disclose," he said. 

The defense did not give any of its own testimony.

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Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com

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