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Charges: Reggie Bethel Murdered 11-Year-Old Boy; Mother Told Investigators Abuse Was Common 'Form Of Discipline'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A northern Minnesota man is charged with murder after a boy he admitted to abusing late last month died in the hospital.

Reggie Bethel, 56, of Fergus Falls, is charged with one count of second-degree unintentional murder, court documents filed in Otter Tail County show. He also faces charges of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter.

According to a criminal complaint, Fergus Falls police responded to Bethel's home on July 29 on a report that a child had suffered a head injury.

Officers found the boy, who is reportedly on the autism spectrum, unconscious on the couch, with wounds on his face, chin and forehead.

Bethel told officers that the boy slipped while picking up dog urine and feces, the complaint states. Doctors, however, told investigators that the child's injuries were too severe to be from an accident.

reggie bethel mug
(credit: Otter Tail County)

Medical records showed that the boy suffered a traumatic brain injury, which required surgery. He was hospitalized and intubated for nine days before succumbing to his injuries on Saturday.

Initially, the child's mother told police a story similar to the one Bethel provided, saying the child fell while cleaning. Later, however, she said that Bethel told her to lie.

What really happened, she said, was that Bethel banged the boy's head against the wall and the floor. She said it was a common occurrence in the house and "a form of discipline."

She and her son moved in with Bethel last year. When questioned by detectives, Bethel said that he helped take care of the child.

After being confronted with what the mother told investigators, Bethel admitted that he lied about what he'd done to the child, adding that he told the boy's mother to lie to first-responders.

Bethel told the detectives that he got frustrated with the boy that day, grabbed him on both sides of his head, and hit him against the wall in various parts of the house, the complaint states. He also admitted to kicking the child while he was on the ground.

Bethel admitted to having anger issues and knowing that what he did was wrong, investigators say. Bethel said that the child never attacked him in any way.

If convicted of the murder charge, Bethel faces up to 40 years in prison.

He is currently out of jail on a $500,000 bond. He had previously been charged with assault and malicious punishment of a child.


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