By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — A trial for an unlicensed Wausau daycare provider accused of intentionally abusing a toddler who suffered a brain injury while in her care that would have started this week has been postponed, according to online court records.
Merisa Sell, 29, faces two counts of child abuse causing great bodily harm and an additional charge of child abuse.
Charges against Sell, who formerly operated Merisa’s Stepping Stones Daycare out of her Stark Street home, stem from two separate cases. The first began in August 2018 when Sell called 911 to report a 16-month-old girl she was caring for fell from her high chair and was choking on food, struggling to breathe. Before emergency workers arrived, Sell allegedly cleared the girl’s airway and turned the girl over to her mother, who declined an ambulance, court records state.
The girl’s mother took her to the hospital that evening because the girl’s condition was deteriorating. At the emergency room, doctors discovered bleeding on the girl’s brain along with mouth injuries and other bruising that indicated potential physical abuse, police said.
Doctor’s suspect the child had been shaken.
As investigators continued their inquiry they learned that Sell was implicated in two other child abuse investigations at the same facility. In 2015, police learned, a 4-month-old boy in Sell’s care was also diagnosed with a brain injury after having a seizure. Sell attributed those injuries to another child who she said shook the boy.
That case was referred to the Marathon County District Attorney’s office, but prosecutors found insufficient evidence to move forward with a case at that time.
But police also learned that a mother of a child in Sell’s care called police in 2017 to report her son had bruising that looked like fingerprints on his upper thigh, court documents show.
In the 2017 case, the mother of the boy called police to report her child had a visible mark near his “private parts,” according to a Wausau Police Department report. Investigators examined the child and discovered what appeared to be fresh fingerprints near his groin that appeared recent and were consistent with adult fingers, the report states.
Prosecutors filed additional charges after police took a fresh look at the 2017 report. All charges have since been consolidated into a single case.
Sell, who allegedly failed to tell her clients that the daycare she was operating was not licensed, was already investigated three times for suspected child abuse and had been fired from two other daycare facilities before charges were filed against her.
During a Jan. 6 motions hearing, Marathon County Circuit Judge Lamont Jacobson took the jury trial off the court’s calendar after hearing an argument regarding medical records pertinent to the case. Future court dates have not been set, but a calendar call, where attorneys on both sides meet to schedule future proceedings, is set for Feb. 26.
Sell is free on a $10,000 bond.