Father on Trial For Murdering His Son Had Been Investigated For Abuse

Terry Sturgis, 36, is on trial for murdering his Tramelle-300x22510-year-old son Tramelle and abusing his two other children. Testimony from staff at Tramelle’s school reveals that Indiana’s Department of Child Services (DCS) missed an opportunity to potentially save Tramelle and his siblings from their abusive father. The South Bend Tribune reports:

[Teacher] Brynne Scalon testified on Monday that Tramelle appeared to have an arm injury on February 2010, and so she sent him to the Madison Primary Center’s school nurse.

Tramelle told nurse Patricia Wallis, ‘Dad hit me with a stick,’ according to Wallis’ testimony.

The injury was reported to DCS, and a social worker was sent to Tramelle’s home to check on the family. Sturgis maintained that Tramelle had injured himself while playing and that everything was fine, according to previous trial testimony. Additional testimony from school officials establishes that Sturgis went to the school the next day in a rage:

“He said, ‘No, I am going to take care of this business. (Tramelle’s teacher) is messin’ with my life. I want to tell her that nobody messes with my family or send any reports to mess with my family. I take care of my family, nobody else,’” said [Secretary Sandy] Matuszak, who was aware that DCS was investigating the family.

Nearly two years later, Tramelle was found dead in the family’s basement, allegedly beaten to death by Sturgis. Disturbing testimony from Memorial Hospital Emergency Room physician Dr. David Halperin lays out the suffering that Tramelle endured:

He said Tramelle’s body was cool to the touch when he got to the hospital.

He had various bruises and burn marks throughout his body, which appeared to be caused by blunt force trauma and a hot object, he said.

Testimony from a forensic analyst for the Indiana state police shows that blood was found on various items from the crime scene–including a clothing iron and a duct-taped wooden club. Whether these were used by Sturgis to abuse his children remains unclear.

Perhaps the most affecting testimony came from Tramelle’s teacher, who shared with the court her memories of the boy DCS could have saved:

“Tramelle was a student every teacher would want in their class,” Scalon said. “He always had a smile on his face, he absolutely loved being at school. He was a loving, caring, hard worker. He was a leader in the classroom.”