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Medical examiner: Boy was abused, homicide victim

According to Medical Examiner Dr. Michael McGee, 4-year-old Eric Dean was an abused child and, ultimately, a homicide victim.

Tuesday’s testimony from the medical examiner launched day three of the Amanda Peltier trial in Pope County District Court.

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Peltier, of Starbuck, is on trial for the death of Dean. She’s charged with first degree murder while committing child abuse with a past pattern of child abuse and second-degree murder without intent while committing a felony.

Peltier was caring for Dean at her Starbuck home on February 26, 2013, when she allegedly became upset with him and “launched” him across a room, she told law enforcement.

The boy became ill that night and into February 27. That night, an ambulance was called and Dean was taken to Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood. He was then airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital where he died early the next morning.

Eric Dean is the son of Sommar Kemp of Glenwood and David Dean of Starbuck. David Dean was Peltier’s live-in fiancé at the time.

Peltier’s trial started May 16.


For a little more than two hours, with autopsy photos and diagrams projected on a large screen in the courtroom, McGee provided details to jurors about the autopsy he conducted on the boy.

McGee, a forensic pathologist, said the boy’s death was likely caused by blunt force trauma to the front center of his abdomen, which resulted in peritonitis from a perforated bowel.

McGee described Dean’s external injuries: crescent-shaped and ring-shaped abrasions on his scalp, numerous bruises and an abrasion on his forehead, a bruised ear, mouth injuries that included bruising on his lips, gums and a cut above his front teeth, bruising and scratches on the chin, and abdominal trauma, which left his

abdomen distended.

McGee said the autopsy’s internal examination revealed a hole in the boy’s bowel and two severe internal hematomas, which were projected in the courtroom and higher resolution photos presented to jurors.

The doctor said the internal injuries were likely caused by significant blunt force trauma. Based on the injuries he saw, McGee concluded he believed Dean was an abused child and the manner of death was homicide.


Prosecutor Robert Plesha asked McGee if the injuries he saw were consistent with an adult propelling Dean’s 45-pound body into an object.

McGee said it was possible if the child was propelled into something that compressed the abdomen.

Plesha asked if the ring-shaped abrasions on Dean’s scalp were consistent with an adult biting the boy on the head. McGee said it was a possibility.

Plesha asked McGee if he believed significant force caused Dean’s internal injuries. McGee said he believed it was, given the type of injury and where it was located inside the boy’s body.

During cross examination, Defense Attorney Scott Belfry zeroed in on asking what may have caused the injuries.

Belfry asked if McGee was able to determine if the bruises on Dean’s forehead were self-inflicted, accidental or done intentionally. McGee said he couldn’t determine that.

Belfry asked if the scalp abrasions could have been the result of a bite from a child. McGee said it was a possibility.

Belfry asked if the lip injuries could have been caused by an adult applying pressure to stop bleeding. McGee said if enough force was applied it was possible.

After questioning was completed with McGee, prosecutors brought back Ken McDonald, a special agent with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, who investigated the case.

Plesha asked McDonald about his interview with Peltier on March 5, 2013 – about a week after Dean died.

McDonald reportedly showed Peltier autopsy photos of the boy’s ring-shaped scalp abrasions and she admitted that she had been biting Dean on the head.

In the criminal complaint, Peltier reportedly stated that she bit Dean when he bit her or frustrated her, and she had done so too many times to recall.

The trial continued Tuesday afternoon when witnesses were called to testify.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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