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Skate park dad regrets actions, will fight charges

The father of a 6-year-old injured in a fall after being left alone at a skate park plans to fight the mistreatment and neglect charges lodged against him.

Daniel R. Willis, 44, said he regrets leaving his younger son in the care of his 9-year-old brother at the Bear Creek Skatepark but doesn't believe his actions deserve such a stiff penalty.

"I just don't think it's right, honestly," Willis said. "I don't abuse or neglect my children, but that's what (the police) are making it out to be."

Willis reportedly left the boys at the skate park Oct. 14 for about two hours before the 6-year-old fractured his skull in a fall.

Medford police then charged Willis with two counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment, a felony, and misdemeanor child neglect. His wife June Willis, 49, faces two counts of misdemeanor child neglect.

"I will absolutely take this to trial," Willis said. "I want to be judged by a jury of my peers, people with common sense."

Common sense or no, Oregon law states that any child under 10 cannot be left unattended in a place where he or she can be endangered. The law also states that a child must be 12 or older when put in charge of a younger child.

Willis said he wasn't aware of the law and had left his children alone at the skate park several times.

"They are very good skaters," he said. "Even if I was there I couldn't have stopped him from falling. It just doesn't make any sense."

Willis has four children, two of them teenagers. The charges have made life difficult for the family of six, he said.

"I am no longer allowed to be alone with my 6 and 9 year old," Willis said. "My teenagers are very upset. They think they may get taken away."

Willis' arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 14 in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Willis said he and his wife have received support from neighbors, friends and members of his church.

"I realize now that I should have been there at the skate park," Willis said. "But I shouldn't be charged with a felony. It was punishment enough being with my son in the hospital."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.