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Murder conviction upheld

Mom serving 5 years to life for killing her baby

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Jurors who convicted a Delta woman of killing her 9-month-old daughter were provided "overwhelming" medical evidence the woman beat the infant, just as she had done to her two older children, according to the Utah Supreme Court.

The high court on Friday upheld Bobbie Dawn Widdison's murder and child-abuse convictions, striking down each of the eight challenges to her April and May 1998 jury trial. Widdison is serving five years-to-life in the Utah State Prison.

Breanna Loveless died Feb. 22, 1996, from multiple injuries sustained over a one-month period, the opinion states. A medical examiner testified at Widdison's two-week trial that Breanna suffered several broken bones, including fractures to her arms and legs likely caused by someone forcefully grabbing and twisting them. The child also suffered bruising all over her body, injuries on her nose and chin, torn skin connecting her right ear to her scalp, and a diaper rash so severe that parts of her skin were completely missing, the opinion states.

Expert witnesses testified that Breanna suffered battered child syndrome, that is, "multiple repetitive inflicted injuries at the hands of a caretaker." In her appeal, Widdison contended prosecutors failed to outline the need for such evidence. The court disagreed, saying the experts simply provided an opinion for the existence of battered child syndrome rather than determining who was to blame for the child's injuries.

Widdison's 4- and 5-year-old children also testified by closed-circuit television their mother had previously hit them with a belt, the opinion states. Widdison sought to have that testimony thrown out, saying the children instead should have testified in person.

But the court on Friday ruled the state established a necessity for the closed-circuit television when it determined the children would be "less apt to experience serious emotional distress, be more likely to think clearly and be more responsive to questions if they testify out of the presence of their mother."

Widdison's ex-husband, and the father of her two older children, testified Widdison would "lose her temper" when her older children cried, and "would call them names, and would force them to take a bottle or pacifier," the opinion states.

On the day of Breanna's death, Widdison was observed in a grocery store verbally abusing her older children, the opinion states. A cashier at the store testified Widdison yelled at her children and threatened to kill them.

Widdison appealed, saying the evidence was "introduced solely to prove (her) character as a bad mother." The court, however, ruled the evidence went toward Widdison's mental state the day her youngest child died.

Widdison's other failed items of appeal were the trial court erred when it three times refused to move the trial out of Millard County and by not granting a mistrial following testimony by Widdison's former friend, who said Widdison exhibited a "general lack of care for Breanna."

The Utah Court of Appeals in June 2000 also upheld the felony and misdemeanor child abuse convictions of the infant's uncle and Widdison's live-in boyfriend at the time, Travis Widdison. Widdison was ordered to serve one to five years in prison for his role in Breanna's death.

E-mail: awelling@desnews.com