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Last updated on Friday, May 18, 2012
(SOUTH BEND) - A South Bend man burned his three sons with an iron until their skin fell off and beat one of the boys until he died, a prosecutor said Thursday as the man went on trial on murder and battery charges.
Deputy Prosecutor Joel Gabrielse said in his opening statement that Terry Sturgis Sr., 35, abused all his sons for years before 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis died Nov. 4, the South Bend Tribune reported.
"Like rings on the cross-section of a tree, Tramelle's body and the bodies of his brothers bore witness to what happened to them over the years. And all those horrors were at the hands of this man," Gabrielse said, referring to Sturgis, who sat at the defense table, dressed in a cream-colored, short-sleeved shirt and dark pants.
Defense attorney Jeff Kimmell told the jury of nine women and five men in his opening statement that Sturgis didn't intend to kill his son and that testimony will show that Tramelle died of asphyxiation after swallowing vomit, not from his father's actions.
Gabrielse said Tramelle's fatal beating was triggered by a school principal's telephone call to the Sturgis home to say Tramelle's 14-year-old brother was in trouble for taking pencils from an art class. The call angered the father.
"He said, `Me and my stick, we're going to have some fun,"' Gabrielse said of the upcoming testimony.
Sturgis faces 14 counts, including eight felony counts of battery. His other son was 8 at the time.
Gabrielse said Sturgis restrained Tramelle with duct tape and beat the boy's back so badly that several bones were broken. Then, with a hot clothing iron, "the defendant began to brand them," Gabrielse said, "until their skin was black and fell off."
South Bend police Officer Devon Johnson testified he was in a hospital waiting room when a doctor asked Sturgis about the boy's injuries.
"According to Terry, Tramelle had been cooking that night before Terry had come home" from dialysis, Johnson said. "He was boiling some water, and the water had gotten on him."
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