A Grand Forks man was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison for child abuse.
A charge of child neglect was dropped against 24-year-old Taurean Maurice Miller as part of a plea agreement.
An affidavit for Miller’s arrest said his former fiance took her 1-year-old boy to the Altru Hospital Emergency Room on Oct. 27 because she saw bruising on his stomach and sides. The boy looked “exhausted and almost lifeless,” investigators said. He was transferred to Sanford Hospital in Fargo for more intensive treatment, according to the court document.
Police said there were bruises on the child’s chest, forehead, left cheek and pelvic area. There was a large burn on his clavicle and multiple broken ribs in different stages of healing, which police said means the boy was harmed at several different points of time. Doctors reported the boy had a lacerated spleen and was in pain.
Miller allegedly told police he’d squeezed the child’s chest and heard a cracking or popping noise the day before the boy was taken to the hospital.
He was watching the child while his former fiance, 25-year-old Terrica Rean, was at work. Miller told police the boy had fallen out of bed and was covered in his own vomit that morning, according to the affidavit. He reportedly dropped the child while washing him in the bathtub and heard the cracking noise while he grabbed the boy to stop him from falling, the affidavit said.
The boy reportedly screamed in pain and Miller told police he felt an area where the boy’s rib was loose.
Miller put the boy to bed and told officers he lied to his fiance about what happened because he was worried she would be angry, the affidavit said.
Rean told the Herald during a phone interview in April that she noticed fresh bruises on the boy and took him to the hospital the next day because his condition worsened. She said she was confused and horrified to find out her son had such severe injuries and that the abuse had been ongoing.
"I was upset that somebody could do that to him," she said between tears. "He is so sweet."
Rean said she was told by doctors that it is sometimes difficult to detect broken ribs in an infant. The injuries cause pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, bruises and sometimes can lead to a lacerated spleen, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Rean said her son seemed happy and healthy until the Oct. 26 incident.
“My son was moving around, he was playing, he was doing everything that a child does at this age,” she said. “I didn’t even see a sign of anything.”
Rean said she is no longer with Miller and was working two jobs to support her three children. She was charged in April with child neglect related to the incident. She is scheduled to appear in court again next month.
Rean, who has no previous criminal history, said she feels the charge against her is unfair.
“I made a mistake trusting him with my baby,” she said.
Miller will be on probation for three years after he’s released from prison. He also will be required to register as an offender against children.