Jury’s verdict: Former Craig police officer not guilty of child abuse, third-degree assault
Steamboat Springs — The jury trial of former Craig Police Officer Tracy Reneau started Thursday at Routt County Combined Court and ended Friday with a verdict of not guilty.
The six-person jury — three men and three women — deliberated about two hours before exonerating Reneau on charges of child abuse and third-degree assault, both misdemeanors.
Reneau was alleged to have caused injury to her 12-year-old stepchild July 26 during a drive between Steamboat Springs and their home in Craig while she was off-duty.
The matter was brought to the attention of Moffat County Social Services, the Craig Police Department and Moffat County Sheriff’s Office on July 29, when staff of the Boys & Girls Club of Craig reported a large bruise on the child, according to testimony given by three club staff members.
The child indicated that Reneau caused the bruise, and the Boys & Girls Club staff was required by state law to report the suspected abuse to authorities.
Moffat County Sheriff’s Investigator Gary Nichols investigated the case in early August.
During Nichols’ investigation, the child’s mother and Tracy Reneau’s wife, Sonja Reneau, during Nichol’s investigated stated that she had noticed the bruise July 25, the day before the incident in the vehicle.
However, charges were brought against Tracy Reneau on Aug. 17.
She entered a plea of not guilty and requested a jury trial Oct. 5.
Because the alleged incident occurred in a vehicle while it was in Routt County, the case was heard at the Routt County Combined Court in Steamboat Springs with Judge James Garrecht presiding.
Attorney Matt Tjosvold represented Reneau. Tjosvold formerly worked in the District Attorney’s office. He also successfully defended former Steamboat Springs Police Officer Kristin Bantle, who was exonerated in December 2015 of attempting to influence a public servant.
In Reneau’s defense, Tjosvold argued that, while Reneau did hit the boy, the force used was necessary to stop behavior that was endangering everyone in the vehicle.
Sonja Reneau was driving the car and was the only witness offered by the defense.
The couple married at the end of July and testified that the family was working with therapists to address their child’s increasingly violent behavior.
They had also visited with doctors earlier in the year to start moving forward on tests to determine if the child suffers from a bruising disorder.
District Attorney Brett Barkey argued that Tracy Reneau lost control and applied too much force, the wrong kind of force (a closed fist) and acted out of anger, thus committing child abuse.
“This a case is about the bounds of discipline,” said Barkey in his closing arguments.
All parties stated that the case was a sad one filled with uncomfortable topics of mental health, physical health and the challenge of blending families.
“This is a sad case, no matter how you rule, there is no happiness in this case at all,” Barkey said. “We greatly appreciate the jury’s close attention to this difficult case and respect their decision.”
As the result of a voluntary family agreement, the boy is currently living with his father, but Sonja Reneau said she is making efforts to reconnect the family.
The Reneaus declined to comment on the verdict, but Tjosvold said on behalf of the family, “We would like to thank the jury for their service.”
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Steamboat Springs part-time resident David Dennis is approaching the third-year mark from when his right leg was amputated below the knee.