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Cass Lake man sentenced for assault on toddler

Curtis Dale Morris, 26, of Cass Lake, was sentenced Monday to 21 months in prison for felony third-degree assault of a victim younger than 4 years old.

The execution of the sentenced was stayed for five years. Morris is required, as a condition of the stayed sentence, to serve six months in the Beltrami County Jail and placed on supervised probation for five years.

Morris must pay a $1,000 fine plus court costs, complete a chemical dependency assessment and follow all recommendations, complete an anger management course and follow all recommendations, have no contact with the boy or his father, have no contact with the boy's immediate family, have no contact with children under 18 years old, comply with all directives from social services files, submit a DNA sample, submit to random testing, not use drugs or alcohol and remain law-abiding.

The boy who was assaulted, then just under 2 years old, will never walk again, his family members said during the sentencing.

Morris, who was initially charged with first- and third-degree assault, was sentenced by Beltrami County District Judge Paul Benshoof.

The assault occurred on Jan. 20, 2008, on the 2900 block of Ridgeway Avenue Northwest. Emergency personnel responded to a call of a child having difficulty breathing and erratic motor functions.

Morris, who was caring for the boy, was at the scene, carrying the boy in a blanket. The boy appeared to be having a seizure. Morris initially said the boy had fallen down the stairs on Jan. 19.

Bemidji police officers noticed several bruises on the boy's forehead and a scab on his nose.

Another child in Morris' care also had a bruise on her face.

The boy was taken to North Country Regional Hospital and then airlifted to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, N.D. Medical personnel told law enforcement that his injuries were not consistent with a fall down a flight of stairs.

The boy's mother told police that she spent the afternoon with the boy after he fell down the stairs on Jan. 19 and did not see any injuries; when specifically asked about the bruises on his forehead, she told police she had no idea how he would have suffered such injuries.

A MeritCare doctor later told police that the boy suffered a severe head trauma injury. He said the medical findings strongly suggested child abuse consistent with a shaken or impact cause of injury. The boy also had multiple bruises to his lower extremities.