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Charges: Belt, duct tape used to abuse Fergus Falls boy who died

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Justis Rae Burland2 / 5
A 6-year-old boy, who Fergus Falls police say died under suspicious circumstances, lived in this house. Two people have been charged in connection with his death. WDAY-TV photo3 / 5
Stuffed animals and balloons rest outside the Fergus Falls, Minn., home of a 6-year-old boy who police say died under suspicious circumstances. Two people have been charged in connection with his death. WDAY-TV photo4 / 5
Bobbie Christine Bishop (left) & Walter Henry Wynhoff5 / 5

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – Papers filed in Otter Tail County District Court paint a painful and disturbing picture of the last days of a young boy’s life as two people, a man and a woman, face murder and other charges in the 6-year-old’s death.

Walter Henry Wynhoff, 44, and Bobbie Christine Bishop, 40, both of Fergus Falls, each face one count of second-degree murder without intent, one count of first-degree manslaughter, two counts of second-degree manslaughter, and one count of malicious punishment of a child resulting in great bodily harm.

Authorities have not released the victim’s name. WDAY-TV has reported that his name is Justis Rae Burland.

According to court papers:

Fergus Falls police were called to Lake Region Hospital on Monday, April 9, on a report of an unresponsive child.

An officer, who was already at the hospital on another matter, told a responding detective that he saw a woman carry the unresponsive boy into the emergency room. And although efforts were immediately taken to try to revive him, the boy was declared dead.

The detective found aspects of the boy’s appearance disturbing, including marks that covered the boy from his toes to his head, including sores, cuts and scratches. The child’s hair was blotchy, and it appeared parts had been pulled out or were just not growing.

The detective also noticed a mark on the boy’s upper body that was 2 to 3 inches wide and appeared consistent with a strap or some kind of restraint. The boy’s face was scabbed over and scarred with multiple injuries that were in various stages of healing.

A nurse told police that when Bishop brought the child into the hospital, the boy was limp and not breathing and he was wearing only a soiled diaper.

Doctors told police the boy’s body had numerous injuries, including wounds on his buttocks that might have been caused by scalding water and which were possibly infected with flesh-eating bacteria. Skin on the boy’s feet had sloughed off, possibly from some sort of water burn, and there were signs of infection.

A doctor told police one of the most remarkable things about the injuries were the different ages of the wounds.

A detective talked to Wynhoff, described in court papers as a friend of Bishop’s, regarding the child, and Wynhoff said that on Saturday, April 7, the 6-year-old had been sent to bed for a timeout after peeing his bed.

Wynhoff said the boy was in his bed from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., when he came out for a time before returning to bed about 7:30 p.m. to go to sleep.

Bishop told police that on Sunday evening, April 8, there was an incident involving the 6-year-old and she “beat his ass” and spanked him with a belt. She told police she knew she hit him too hard.

“I shoulda brought him in. I didn’t want them to take him away,” Bishop told police.

Wynhoff said when Bishop woke up Monday morning she went upstairs and started screaming when she found the boy was not breathing. He said they drove the child to the hospital.

Wynhoff told police Bishop used a belt to discipline children if they soiled their pants. He also said children in the house were made to stand in the corner for half an hour or for the rest of the day.

Asked why the boy was wearing a diaper when brought to the hospital, Wynhoff said it was because they believed the child was soiling his pants intentionally.

Wynhoff told police that in recent days he had noticed a sore on the boy’s bottom and blamed it on the boy having sat in his own feces for a half hour to an hour.

Asked about restraints being used on the child, Wynhoff told police Bishop taped the 6-year-old to the wall with duct tape.

When interviewed by police, Bishop said she had used a belt on the boy about 20 times over the last month and she had spanked another child with a belt about seven times.

She said she asked Wynhoff to help her discipline the children and on Monday morning Wynhoff went to the bedroom of the 6-year-old. She said he returned stating he had never been so angry at a child before and that he had slapped the boy.

Bishop said when she checked on the boy he had a red mark on the left side of his face and was groggy and had slurred speech. She said the boy handed her a tooth and she saw a broken 1-by-1-inch board near the boy’s bed.

Police later found two pieces of wood that tested positive for the presence of blood, according to court documents.

A sibling who was found in the same home has been taken into protective custody, police said. Neither child was enrolled in school, according to police, who said their legal guardian lives in Montana.

Bishop told police the two children came to her home in August and that they were violent and did strange things. She said she used punishment that included spankings and making them stand in a corner or sitting on a bed, according to court documents.

Bishop and Wynhoff are each being held at the Otter Tail County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail with conditions, or $2 million bail without conditions. Phone messages seeking comment from their court-appointed attorney, Abbie Jean Thurmes, were not returned Wednesday, April 11.