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Neighbors of Fergus Falls man accused of murdering boy with autism describe disturbing behavior

56-year-old Reggie Bethel is charged with murder for the beating death of his girlfriend's 11-year-old son who had autism.

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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Reggie Bethel has lived in a residential neighborhood just a couple of blocks from the hospital in Fergus Falls for a number of years. Many of his neighbors told WDAY News they did not know him personally, but it appeared he did have a temper.

"That guy was not very likable, I'll admit I did not not like him," said neighbor Mavis Shirreff, referring to Bethel.

Bethel is currently at the Otter Tail County Jail, charged with murdering 11-year-old Mason Weston.

"I felt so sad," Shirreff said. "Children have to trust adults and obviously that little boy couldn't."

WDAY News learned Mason moved into the home with his mother in the fall of 2020, when she started dating Bethel. Neighbors say they rarely saw the boy with autism, unless he was looking out the window.

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"With all the swearing and stuff, I'm sure he didn't have a nice life," Shirreff said.

In late July, police say Bethel slammed Mason's head into a wall five times and kicked him. Mason died from those injuries over the weekend. Neighbors say they never saw any beatings take place, but that verbal abuse was common.

"He liked to swear," Shirreff said. "I could hear him when my door was closed."

Another neighbor said it was not uncommon for Bethel to throw tools around the yard in frustration. Neighbors had also filed numerous junk complaints with city.

"If we had seem something, pushing and shoving or something like that, then we could have complained about it," Shirreff said.

In court papers, police say Mason's mom initially lied to police about her son's death. She said Bethel beating Mason was a "common occurrence as a form of discipline." Right now she is not facing any charges, but prosecutors say she is not in the clear yet. It's unknown when the abuse started and how much she knew.

"Any parties who are potentially responsible for the child and his death will certainly be investigated and the investigation just continues," said Otter Tail County attorney Michelle Eldien. " (It) depends what facts come out will determine if it is appropriate."

The judge set bail at $500,000 with conditions. With the exception of exposing himself at work last year, Bethel has no criminal history.

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If convicted, the 56-year-old Bethel could spend the next 40 years in prison.

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