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Exam of deceased Wagner child reveals internal, external injuries

In addition to being covered with bruises, autopsy, x-ray discover a healing rib fracture, as well as a more recent rib fracture.

Charles Mix County Law Enforcement Center.jpg
Charles Mix County Law Enforcement Center (Republic file photo)

WAGNER — A child who died at a Wagner hospital Thursday morning had a majority of his body covered in old and new injuries, according to newly filed court documents prepared by investigators.

Those injuries were tied back to the child’s mother’s live-in boyfriend, Leonard Sharp Fish, 31, of Wagner, who is now facing one count of abuse of or cruelty to a minor under the age of 7.

According to court documents, police in Wagner were called to the Wagner Community Hospital in the early hours of Thursday, Feb. 16, for a 2-year-old boy that was admitted with “lots of bruising all over the body and green stuff coming out of his mouth.”

The boy was pronounced dead at 3:01 a.m

Interim Police Chief Damon Griffith, in his second week of leading the Wagner Police Department following the prior chief’s demotion, contacted DCI regarding the death, seeking assistance in the investigation.

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Upon his arrival Thursday afternoon, DCI Special Agent Brian Larson viewed the body of the boy.

“The juvenile male had several bruises across his body, to include his face, chest, arms, legs and buttocks. There was a larger area of bruising to the left side of his face and eye area,” Larson wrote in an arrest affidavit. “There were two larger bruises on either side of his buttocks area, near his hips. From my training and experience these two large bruises were similar in shape and size of hand markings.”

Larson, with nine years of law enforcement experience, wrote that those injuries — plus smaller circular bruises on the boy’s chest and waist — appeared to be a result of some form of blunt trauma.

“He has several scars on his arms and legs from what appeared (to be) old injuries,” Larson wrote. “The victim had a small cut on the inside of his right foot that appeared to be fresh.”

Autopsy and x-ray findings discovered a healing rib fracture, as well as a more recent rib fracture. Larson wrote that all injuries he observed appeared to be consistent with child abuse.

The boy’s mother, who brought him to the hospital, told investigators she lives in Wagner with her four children and Sharp Fish, her boyfriend who in October 2021 moved in.

Investigators then turned their focus to Sharp Fish, who said he assisted in clothing of the boy, but said his primary responsibility in the home was cooking and getting the kids to school. He claimed he was the one with a job providing money for the family.

Sharp Fish allegedly told police he was aware that the victim’s three older siblings would fight and wrestle “all the time” with the victim, and that he never took action to stop the kids.

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After obtaining a search warrant, investigators searched the residence, and found no running heat. The temperature upon entrance in the home was 47 degrees.

“There was an infestation of insects throughout the residence. There was an enclosed front porch that had items in it that led agents to believe this was a child’s bedroom,” Larson wrote. “Sharp Fish also confirmed that this was where one of the children slept.”

Inside, authorities found rolled-up dollar bills with powdery substance inside, a baggie of a “green leafy substance,” two glass pipes and a substance believed to be marijuana wax.

The victim’s mother claimed Sharp Fish smokes marijuana in the house and takes medications not prescribed to him. She also said the home had a rat problem. Authorities located cat feces in bedrooms.

When authorities interviewed the other children who live in the home, they said the victim’s bruising came from “dad” punching the victim. Another child said Sharp Fish would hurt the victim by dragging the victim by his leg and pulling him.

Larson wrote that the comments made by the children were consistent with injuries he observed on the victim at the hospital.

Sharp Fish was arrested and charged with a Class 3 felony. After appearing in court Thursday, he’s next due for a status hearing on March 1.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to serve up to 15 years in prison and pay a fine of up to $30,000.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation had previously reported Sharp Fish’s age as 41 years old. Court documents indicate he is 31 years old.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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