Lawyers spar over testimony in basement child case

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Detroit – — Testimony continued Wednesday on charges against the father and stepmother of a 12-year-old found shivering in a basement 11 days after the couple reported the boy missing.

Charles Bothuell IV and stepmother Monique Dillard-Bothuell face counts of torture and child abuse after the boy was discovered behind a wall of clutter after an 11-day search. Prosecutors said the 12-year-old may testify later this afternoon.

This morning’s hearing included testy exchanges between Shawn Patrick Smith, defense attorney for the father, and Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Attorney Carin Goldfarb about Smith’s prolonged questioning of Dr. Dena Nazer, chief of the child abuse team at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Smith repeatedly challenged her diagnosis that the child had been abused. Nazer testified the boy, called Charlie V, had told doctors he was isolated in the basement for 10 days, made to urinate in a drain and forced to hold his bowels because he wasn’t allowed to use a toilet. Charlie also said he was beaten with a pipe, emotionally abused, and deprived of food and water, Nazer said.

The defense lawyer challenged the validity of her diagnosis time after time, prompting numerous objections from Goldfarb, which were sustained by 36th District Court Judge Shannon Holmes.

“Would you not consider, just a little bit, that this young man might be lying?” Smith asked. “Is there anything that would change your opinion about whether this young man was telling the truth or not?”

When Smith questioned Nazer about Charlie V’s ADHD diagnosis and behavior, Goldfarb objected.

“Let’s say a child does have ADHD,” Goldfarb said. “Is it appropriate (to beat him)? Is it appropriate to isolate and not allow social interaction?”

Investigators say Bothuell appeared preoccupied with the physical fitness of his son, raising questions about whether the boy may have been mentally or physically abused. During the 11 days the boy was considered missing, his father made several references to how fit his son was.

Nazer testified the boy’s weight was in the 95th percentile, but he quickly lost 25 pounds after placed on an exercise regimine by his father that the child described as extreme.

Smith rigorously questioned Nazer about her conclusion the regimen was abusive, asking if she’d consulted guidelines from the Academy of Pediatrics and other groups.

The judge urged Smith to move on from his line of questioning several times, but Smith persisted. Smith complained when Holmes concluded his cross examination before he was ready to finish.

“Take it up and appeal it,” Holmes responded. “Thank you and have a nice day.”

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