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Woman charged after allegedly handcuffing, beating girl with strap

Julia Marie Patek (Washington County Jail photo)

Question: What justifies handcuffing a child to a bed and beating her with a leather strap?

Another: Under what circumstances is it considered proper to break her nose?

When Washington County investigators asked these questions Mahtomedi resident Julia Marie Patek, she said the 13-year-old girl had been stealing, lying, "and not going to school."

On Sept. 29, county prosecutors charged Patek with two felony charges, one for malicious punishment of a child, the other for third degree assault. If convicted of both, the Stillwater Road resident faces maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

Authorities learned of the alleged abuse after someone reported seeing two children wearing backpacks and winter coats, walking with two dogs on the Gateway Trail in Grant on Friday, Sept. 26.

The children -- one, the 13-year-old girl, the other a 9-year-old boy -- explained to county deputies that they weren't in school because they were "out for a walk" and that they had permission from their mother to miss school.

A closer look at the girl revealed dark bruises under her eyes and on the right side of her face, the criminal complaint states. Questioned further, the girl said Patek hit her repeatedly with a leather strap two days earlier.

"Because of this, she and her brother were running away from home," the complaint states. The deputies took the children immediately to Lakeview Hospital for treatment.

X-rays revealed the girl's nose was fractured, and medical staff found further bruising "all over her body," according to the complaint.

In interviews with child protection workers, the girl recounted a serious of abusive encounters with the woman in the previous week, one day being struck with a library book, another day, with a leather strap.

Sept. 24 proved to be the girl's breaking point. Patek, she said, brought her to a bedroom, handcuffed the girl to the bed with a pair of what she described as "black, furry handcuffs," then used the strap to beat her across the legs, back and buttocks. Two days later, she fled with the boy.

After obtaining a search warrant, police found the handcuffs still attached to Patek's headboard. According to the complaint, Patek told police she used the handcuffs because the girl was shielding herself from the blows.

"She had bound [the girl's] hands to the headboard and had struck [her] with a horse strap approximately ten more times," the complaint explains.

Patek is free on $5,000 bail. Her next appearance in Washington County District Court is scheduled for this Thursday, Oct. 16, at 9 a.m.

According to Minnesota court records, she has no previous criminal history, other than a half dozen traffic convictions in Washington and Ramsey counties between September, 2005 and November, 2006.