Field Notes

Murder case shows what happens when people stay silent

Murder case shows what happens when people stay silent
Jessica Dutro-Bogess.

“Had they been made aware, they would have been able to talk to each other and get their story straight.”

That was Dr. Danny Leonhardt on the stand in Washington County Court earlier this week.

He was talking about the reaction of Jessica Dutro after he had told her the extent of the injuries her son, 4-year-old Zachary had suffered.

It was August 2012 and Zachary had been rushed to the hospital after being found unconscious in the Tigard family shelter where he lived.

There was the dead skin still hanging from the deep cut on his lip. There were the bruises all over his body. There were the two tears in his bowels that had allowed the contents of his intestines to spill into his body.

Leonhardt told the jurors that Dutro wasn’t upset about her son’s suffering – she was upset because she and her boyfriend, Brian Canady, had already talked to the police and hadn’t had a chance to get their stories straight.

They were going to look like idiots.

As it turns out, Zachary would soon die of his injuries and Dutro and Canady would look like murderers, which is what they would be charged as.

Canady has pleaded guilty to his role in Zachary’s death.

Dutro is on trial for murdering her son.

Leonhardt isn’t the only one with stories about abuse in the family.

“Jessica and Brian, they kept hitting him and punching him. He didn’t listen to them so they kicked him and punched him and stuff and they kept doing it and going it.

“They kept hitting and hitting him because he wasn’t listening.”

According to a detective from Tigard, that’s what Zachary’s then-7-year-old sister said of the abuse inflicted by her mom and her boyfriend.

She told the detective about the days before Zachary was found unconscious. She talked of watching her Mom and Brian hitting and punching and kicking Zachary for a “long time.”

She talked of watching them hit and kick Zachary for so long in the abdomen and genitals that he bled from his penis.

She talked of watching Brian clean up the blood.

She talked of how when she or her siblings got in trouble, her mother would make them stand facing he walk with her hands up in the air for more than one hour – so long that it “feels like I want to scream.”

She talked of how her Mom and Brian would hit her in the face and punch her in the stomach.

When the trial started, Jessica’s lawyer told jurors that it was Brian who killed Zachary and there was no credible evidence to back up the claim of her daughter that she ever beat any of the children.

It’s hard to come up with any sort of explanation why an adult – especially a parent - would beat a child.

Prosecutors argue that Jessica believed her son – who was 4 at the time – was gay. And for that, he needed to be beaten.

“He’s going to be a fag he walks and talks like it ugh it pisses me off,” she wrote Brian over Facebook months before Zachary was killed. “You need to work on (him) big time.”

The State of Oregon compiles a report detailing incidents of child abuse during the previous year.

In 2012 – the year Zachary was killed – there were 6,332 substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect involving 10,054 victims.

Nearly 50 percent were younger than 6.

Of the 10,054, 17 – including Zachary – died from causes related to the abuse and/or neglect.

Of the 17, 13 – again, including Zachary – had at least one of their parents as a perpetrator of the fatal abuse.

Of the 13, 12 – once again, including Zachary – were 5 or younger.

Here’s the thing. Not one of the children had an open child welfare case at the time they were killed. Not one of them was in the custody of child welfare.

It’s not that people didn’t know what was happening.

In the case of Zachary, detectives spoke with Jessica’s sister who reported having seen several instances of Zachary being abused. Saw but apparently never reported.

It’s estimated that for every victim whose case is actually investigated there are at least two other children who never get help.

As in the case of Zachary, sometimes those abused children are finally discovered when they end up in the emergency room.

Or in the medical examiner’s office. And then it’s too late.

The trial of Jessica Dutro resumes Tuesday.