Terrible Two

Renee Polreis and her adopted son had a miserable life together--until someone put an end to it.

David was pronounced dead at 11:20 that same morning, but doctors kept his heart beating until approximately 1:30 p.m., after Dave Polreis flew in from Texas.

Police asked Dave Polreis if he'd seen any marks on David before leaving for Texas. He told them he hadn't and added that this had come as a shock to him, because Renee would not even beat an animal.

Dave Polreis, the officer noted in a report, was very emotional during the course of the conversation. When the officer left the room, Dave Polreis began to cry uncontrollably.

Investigators were sidetracked in their suspicions later that day when Dr. Thomas Harms, from the Greeley hospital, informed them that David's blood had showed positive for a condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). Harms told investigators that the condition could account for David's bruising.

The doctors at Children's, however, disagreed with Harms. David, the Children's physicians told police, did not have an infection--an opinion later backed up by the autopsy report. And if his blood was positive for DIC, the doctors said, the condition had been caused by the beating.

Investigators sought and received a search warrant for the Polreis house and executed it the evening of David's death. In their search, officers noted in their reports, they found a broken wooden spoon wrapped inside a bloodied diaper in the kitchen trash. At the bottom of the trash bag was another bloody, broken spoon.

Officers also seized a wooden-handled mirror and wooden brush from the master bathroom. They noted, but did not take, a large wooden spoon they found in a drawer of a downstairs bathroom.

By Sunday, February 11, police had obtained an arrest warrant for Renee. She surrendered at police headquarters that evening, accompanied by her husband and two men she identified as pastors.

When Renee appeared in court the following day, the courtroom and hall were jammed with friends and well-wishers--in part, says an acquaintance, because Alice Risk had phoned Renee's friends and asked them to come. Renee was released from jail after posting an $80,000 cash bond.

David's funeral was held February 19 at St. Paul's. According to Ken Fulton, who runs the church's family-ministries program, friends of the Polreises passed out an information sheet about attachment disorder after the service. The family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Attachment Center in Evergreen.

But as more facts of the case became known, some of Renee's friends pulled away from her.

Edick told police she wanted nothing more to do with Renee after David died, but she had run into her on a couple of occasions. The first time, Edick said, Renee told her she hoped Edick didn't believe what she'd read about the case in the papers. On their second chance meeting, Edick said, Renee repeated that wish and then added that she hoped Edick didn't feel guilty about how things had worked out, because she herself did not. Edick described Renee's attitude as "flippant."

A business acquaintance of Renee's says she has been appalled by the Polreises' attitude about the case and that she was pleased when Renee's attorney, Harvey Steinberg, announced in court earlier this summer that Renee might plead not guilty by reason of insanity. (Instead, Steinberg has stuck with a straight not-guilty plea to the charges.)

"Had they gone for temporary insanity," the woman says, "that, I could understand. I have children of my own, and I can imagine what it's like in the middle of the night with an angry two-year-old. You're alone, you're completely tired, at wits' end, and you go over the edge.

"But," she continues, "that kind of abuse happens to people with no support system, people who are isolated. And Renee has a great support system. She has lots of friends, and her mother and brother are here."

People who know Renee, the woman continues, are grasping at attachment disorder as an excuse for David's death in the same way a drowning person clutches for a straw. "No one can believe that this could happen in our safe little middle-class world," she says. "No one can believe that someone we know could do this."

Exactly how Steinberg plans to frame a defense for Renee is not yet clear. Weld County District Attorney Al Dominguez Jr., who's prosecuting the case himself, told a judge last month that he's puzzled by exactly how issues of attachment disorder and holding therapy will play into the case. In the meantime, prosecutors are trying hard to obtain information from Boggs and Norton about the therapists' discussions with Renee and David. The issue of whether doctor-patient privilege applies will be argued at a pretrial hearing scheduled for October 21.

Cindy Wilkinson told police that Renee told her she didn't kill David and that he had a medical condition known as DIC. Tracy Kimsey says that, given the tendency of unattached children to hurt themselves, she thinks David might have inflicted the fatal injuries on himself.

For now, things are quiet in the Polreis case. Isaac, who was temporarily forbidden to live with Renee after his brother's death, is now back with his mother. However, a juvenile court judge has ordered that Alice Risk move in with the Polreises and monitor her daughter's interactions with Isaac.

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