South Dakota man to plead guilty in federal abuse case that led to death of 20-month-old boy

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A man accused of failing to seek medical attention for his 20-month-old Native American son who was repeatedly abused and died as a result of the physical mistreatment inflicted by his mother is scheduled to plead guilty Tuesday in federal court in Pierre.

Francis Swan is expected to change his plea to a felony child abuse charge stemming from the October death of his son near Eagle Butte in an area within the exterior boundaries of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Federal authorities argue that Swan exposed the baby to the abuse of Jordyn Blue Coat — Swan's wife and the baby's mother — and did not attempt to provide treatment for the boy's many injuries, including bone fractures.

Court records narrate the brutal abuse that the boy suffered during his short life.

The boy, who authorities have not publicly identified, spent the first 18 months of his life under the care of a couple in Mobridge. Swan and Blue Coat gave away their son because they "were reluctant to care for a third child given their limited economic situation."

Friends and relatives of Swan and Blue Coat pushed the couple to take back custody of the boy. They were told they were "bad parents" for not caring for their child.

"Additionally, the friends and relatives told them it did not appear proper for a non-Indian, non-family member to be raising or adopting (the boy)," records state.

So, two months before the boy died, the couple got their baby back. The transfer of the boy to the Mobridge couple "was a private arrangement" between the families and didn't involve the state's Department of Social Services, the attorney prosecuting this case, Mikal Hanson, said Monday.

The boy cried frequently and was difficult to console during his last two months. His fussy behavior was challenging for Blue Coat and to some degree Swan.

On the evening of Oct. 17, Swan went to visit friends although his son had a serious leg injury and numerous sores on his body. Blue Coat had finished changing the baby's diaper when she left the room to use the restroom. When she returned, she found the boy covered in feces. He had grabbed the dirty diaper.

Blue Coat "lost control of her emotions," according to court documents.

Blue Coat kicked the baby in the head, which pushed his head into the television stand. He became unconscious. Unable to get him to regain consciousness, Blue Coat took the baby to the emergency room of the Indian Health Services Hospital in Eagle Butte. She told hospital personnel that the baby had "fallen two days ago in the park" and hit his head.

Medical personnel found the baby's eyes were swollen shut and he had a large burn injury in one leg. He was transported to a Rapid City hospital where he died in the emergency room early on Oct. 18.

His autopsy also revealed old and recent bone fractures, multiple burns, and injuries to the head, face and feet, among a list of wounds.

Blue Coat has changed her plea to guilty to second-degree murder and is scheduled to be sentenced in April. She faces up to life in prison. Swan's felony child abuse charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.


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