Child abuse trial opens

March 12, 2013 • Local News

Tuesday saw the first day of the jury trial of State of New Mexico versus Steffanie Kautz, 30, who is charged with abuse of a child resulting in death and abuse of a child without death or great bodily harm. The charges stem from an incident [auth] that occurred on May 3, 2011, in the 1200 block of West Hobbs Street, where Kautz was taking care of 14-year-old Breanna (Pooh) Bodge, who subsequently died in her care.

During opening arguments, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Stone reported that Bodge was a diabetic who became ill while staying with Kautz in Roswell. Bodge’s father Michael was working in Artesia. “Steffanie called several people, but she never called 911.”

He said that the father received a phone call from Steffanie early in the morning of May 3, telling him that Breanna was dead. Bodge returned to Roswell and found Kautz asleep next to Breanna’s body.

In her opening statement, defense attorney Anna Marie Bell told the jury that she had little argument about the timeline of the events. She informed the court that Bodge was the custodial parent rather than her client. Bell said during a telephone conversation with Bodge, Breanna told her father she had stomach ache, but did not feel the illness was caused by her blood sugar. Bodge then told Kautz to let Breanna sleep.

Bell also reported that the Office of the Medical Investigator ruled the death an accident, a combination of pancreatitis and diabetic ketoacidosis from dehydration due to insulin deficiency associated with high blood sugar level.

The first witness for the State was Sgt. Rusty Brisco, supervisor of the midnight shift. He reported that he was one of the first persons at the scene. When he entered the home, he found Breanna dead in the middle of a bedroom floor and called the Emergency Services.

Breanna’s father Michael Bodge was called to the stand next to present State’s evidence. He admitted that Kautz and Bodge were close and Breanna had spent the night in Roswell rather than Artesia with her father at her request.

He said he was unavailable during much of the girl’s two-day stay with Kautz because the company was dismantling a drilling rig, at which time cell phones are rendered inoperable. He called at the first opportunity, around 6:30 p.m., to make sure Breanna was all right. He said she told him that she had a stomach ache, but otherwise she was fine.

Bodge said that the following day he received a call around 5 a.m. in which Kautz told him,“Pooh’s dead.” He wept as he described the scene in the Hobbs Street apartment. “I found my daughter, she was lying on the floor. … I tried to get her to wake up. She had something coming out of her mouth.”

Bodge tesrtified that Kautz objected when he tried to call the police. He left the residence to contact 911, and when he returned he discovered Kautz was gone and he had been locked out of the apartment.

During cross-examination, Bell asked Bodge if he had read his witness statement. Again Bodge cried, saying it was not something he could read. He acknowledged that he trusted Steffanie with his daughter, who had been hospitalized in the past with diabetic reactions, and felt that at the age of 14 it was Breanna’s responsibility to monitor her blood sugar.

In redirect, Deputy District Attorney Michael Murphy asked if Breanna was exhibiting the slurred speech, a symptom of ketoacidosis. Bodge replied, “No.” He also told the court that Kautz had never asked if Breanna should go to the doctor.

Officer Gerald Juarez, who sat with the father during his initial witness statement, described Kautz’s reaction when he answered Bodge’s cell phone. According to Juarez, she said, “Why did you do that to me?” When he identified himself, she allegedly hung up.

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