- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota medical examiner will be allowed to testify that the injuries found in the body of 4-year-old boy who authorities say was beaten to death last year were the result of abuse.

Judge Bruce Anderson in Brule County ruled this week that Kenneth Snell can testify for the prosecution during the trial of 23-year-old Donika Gonzales, The Daily Republic (http://bit.ly/1jIpr2e ) reported. The defense had asked Anderson to restrict Snell’s testimony.

Gonzales is accused of beating the boy to death in February 2013 because he wet his pants. The boy was not Gonzales‘ son. The charges against the Gann Valley woman include second-degree murder. She has pleaded not guilty.

Snell ruled that the boy died of blunt force trauma to the abdomen due to abuse. One of Gonzales‘ attorneys asked Anderson during a hearing to limit Snell’s testimony in order to keep the jury from hearing the phrase “due to abuse.”

“We’re contending there could have been a number of factors or incidents that played out and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s child abuse,” attorney Doug Papendick said. Gonzales‘ trial is scheduled to begin in April.

Prosecutor Bob Mayer told Anderson that the defense’s claims weren’t enough to constrain Snell’s testimony.

Anderson denied the request from Gonzales‘ attorney, arguing that the medical examiner is qualified to testify and determines causes of death on a regular basis.

“This is his forte,” Anderson said. “This is what he does.”

Gann Valley is about an hour west of Mitchell in central South Dakota.

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Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com