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Published January 14, 2014, 07:55 PM

Teen says stepmom beat him with broom in Grand Forks child abuse case

A high school sophomore testified Tuesday in a Grand Forks felony trial that his stepmother hit him with a broom last May, leaving welts on his head and red marks on his shoulders.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

A high school sophomore testified Tuesday in a Grand Forks felony trial that his stepmother hit him with a broom last May, leaving welts on his head and red marks on his shoulders.

He said she wrongly believed his stepsister’s story that he refused to clean his room as ordered.

The boy was 14 and attended Red River High School when the incident happened May 19 in their south Grand Forks home.

He’s now 15 and living with a foster family in another town and doesn’t want to live again with his father and stepmother, who now live in East Grand Forks, the boy testified.

His stepmother, Tamara Voll, is on trial in state district court on a felony charge of child abuse that carries a top prison sentence of five years.

Voll, 48, rejected a plea deal from prosecutors last year.

The trial began Tuesday afternoon but was halted by state District Judge Sonja Clapp after the boy’s testimony when she was told a defense witness had a sudden medical issue that needed attention.

Clapp told the jury to return Jan. 24 for the completion of the trial.

Yelling, striking

The boy said it began on a Sunday last May when his adult stepsister began unfairly berating him for not cleaning his room as he was told.

After a shouting altercation upstairs with his stepmother and stepsister, he left the living room and sat on the stairway that leads to his basement bedroom.

He said Voll yelled at him to come upstairs again to talk about it and, when he ignored her, poked him with a broom’s “bristles” and hit him “10 to 13 times” with the hard top of the broom bristles, including two or three times on his head.

It didn’t hurt, the boy testified, but it was wrong, he said.

His father, Michael Voll, then tried to physically pull him from the stair case to return upstairs, but he resisted, the boy testified.

His stepmother later that night “asked me if I was all right and that she was sorry” and he also apologized, the boy testified.

‘Common sense’

But the next day at Red River High, he asked to see a counselor, then a Grand Forks police officer, Justin Holweger, who works in the school. He told the officer what happened and showed him the marks on his head and shoulders.

Holweger, who is slated to testify when the trial resumes, said in his affidavit of probable cause that on May 20 he could see several marks that corroborated the boy’s account, including a “golf-ball sized” bump on the side of his head.

Jason McCarthy, the assistant state’s attorney prosecuting Tamara Voll, asked the boy why he reported the incident to police the day after he had “made up” with his stepmother and father.

“Because no child or teenager should ever be beaten by a broomstick or adult,” the boy testified.

During his cross-examination of the boy, Voll’s attorney Clint Morgenstern asked, “Did your stepmom abuse you?”

“Yes,” he said.

During his opening statement to the jurors Morgenstern urged them to “scrutinize” the boy’s account and then “put your common sense together and see if it’s a child abuse case.”

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