Charge may elevate in child injury case

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SANDPOINT — Leverage is being applied in the case of a former Ponderay daycare center where a child was seriously injured earlier this year.

Dennis Ray McLeish III is charged with injury to a child at the misdemeanor level, although his attorney advised during a pretrial hearing in Bonner County Magistrate Court that the prosecution has warned it may elevate the charge to the felony level if his client does not accept the state’s offer in the case, court records show.

“My client has a lot at stake in this matter,” McLeish’s defense counsel, Sandpoint attorney Michael Waldrup, said on Friday.

Waldrup and Special Prosecutor Aaren Carnline agreed to postpone Friday’s pretrial to May 29.

Judge Justin Julian said it was getting late in the game to amend the charge and urged the state to do sooner rather than later, according to court documents.

Carnline, a deputy prosecutor from Kootenai County, is handling the case because McLeish is the relative of a Bonner County employee.

McLeish, 30, was charged with the misdemeanor offense after a Ponderay Police investigation determined that he left a 6-month-old child unattended in the presence of several other children at the former Little Fit Day Care facility in the Bonner Mall on Feb. 24. The child was found unresponsive and was taken to Bonner General Immediate Care, where he was revived, court records said.

Time-lapsed surveillance camera footage reviewed by police describes escalating forms of violence perpetrated against the 6-month-old by the other children who were present.

The abuse included spanking, holding the child down by his back and neck, head-butting, dragging and biting. The child was also hit with a wooden toy and a plastic lawnmower, according descriptions of the footage in police reports.

The child recovered from his injuries.

McLeish, according to a police affidavit, admitted leaving the room for too long and took responsibility for the incident.

The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare revoked Little Fit’s childcare license as a result of the incident.

McLeish pleaded not guilty last month, which clears the way for a jury trial in the case.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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