Otter Tail County man sentenced for beating death of boy with autism
Reggie Bethel pleaded guilty in January to a charge of second-degree murder, testifying in court that he physically assaulted Mason Weston in July 2021 for not cleaning silverware, stating he slammed the boy's head into a wall several times and kicked him.
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — An Otter Tail County Court judge on Thursday, March 24, sentenced Reggie Bethel to 12 1/2 years in prison for killing his girlfriend's 11-year-old son because the boy refused to do the dishes.
Under the sentence handed down by Judge Johnathan Judd, with good behavior in prison Bethel, 57, could be released after serving eight years and four months, with the remaining four years served on supervised release.
Bethel pleaded guilty in January to a charge of second-degree murder, testifying in court that he physically assaulted 11-year-old Mason Weston in July of 2021 for not cleaning silverware, stating he slammed the boy's head into a wall several times and kicked him.
The boy later died from his injuries.
Judd told Bethel Thursday that his actions "were not only heinous ... they're horrifying."
He also told Bethel his actions took the life of an innocent child, "a child that was loved."
Judd noted that in his review of a pre-sentence report it appeared to him that Bethel had shown little remorse.
"When I read this, it seems to be all about you," Judd told Bethel before giving him the sentence that had been asked for by prosecutor Michelle Eldien.
The prosecutor read two victim impact statements, one from the child's mother, with whom Bethel had been in a relationship, and one from Bethel's adult daughter, Staisha Lindahl, who was in the courtroom for Thursday's sentencing hearing.
The victim's mother, Christina Herren, said in her impact statement that her relationship with Bethel had been abusive, but she had no idea what that abuse would lead to.
"This man is a monster," Herren said in her statement, which also noted Mason had autism and Bethel once kicked the boy out of the house for doing something that displeased him.
Bethel's daughter said in her statement that she had always been afraid of her father and his temper.
Because of his actions, Lindahl said, Bethel had lost the right to be her father.
"You robbed me of having a dad. The pain you have caused is unbearable," her statement read.
Lindahl also wrote that she hoped he would get help in prison for his anger, but she stressed that her statement was a goodbye "from your daughter, who you left behind."
Bethel's attorney, David Phillipe, recommended a sentence of 128 months, stating Bethel had Parkinson's disease and no serious criminal history. He noted Bethel would have to live with what he has done for the rest of his life.
Bethel, who wept quietly as Phillipe spoke, later made a brief statement, saying, "I know I've got to live with that, and I know I lost my family. I have to live with that.
"I'm sorry," he added. 'I've lost everything. I'm sorry."
The case stemmed from a July 29 response to Bethel’s home at 1121 South Mill St. in Fergus Falls.
Police found the unresponsive boy on a couch with multiple injuries to his head, according to court documents.
Mason was taken to Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls before being flown to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.
Bethel initially told police that Mason was cleaning up after a dog when he slipped and fell backward, a criminal complaint said.
Bethel claimed he picked up the child and they both fell two more times, the complaint said.
Doctors said Mason’s injuries were inconsistent with Bethel’s story, according to the complaint.
Medical records revealed Mason had a traumatic brain injury that required surgery, the complaint said. An autopsy concluded Mason died from his injuries and that his death was a homicide.