POST FALLS — Bringing closure to the torture of what a 6-year-old boy endured is what kept Post Falls detective John Mason chipping away at the grueling case for 10 months.
Mason, whose work led to the conviction last year of the boy's father and the dad's half sister and lover, was honored during Tuesday night's city council meeting with the Police Star Award, the department's second-highest honor for superior performance.
"It was the most intense time I've had in my 21-year career," Mason said in an interview before the meeting.
Meanwhile, Officer Melissa Gatfield received the Distinguished Service Award for convincing an armed suicidal male to meet her at the police department so he could seek help.
Officers Robert Helmuth and Nathan Roberts and Sgt. Brian Harrison received the Life-Saving Award for their role in regaining the pulse of an 83-year-old man who had just helped a friend shovel snow and had a heart attack.
Officer Chris Christensen also received a Life-Saving Award for his swift actions responding to an unresponsive man last November.
Mason said he interviewed 12 people and served 20 search warrants in the child abuse case of Tamika Anderson and Melvin Bledsoe. The couple, who were convicted of years of abuse that included beatings, tying the boy to a bed and isolating and starving him, were sentenced last December to a fixed 15 years in prison with another 15 years indeterminate.
Mason said the last he heard was that the boy is making amazing strides in recovery under the care of a foster parent.
"For all he endured, he has such a tender heart and empathy for other people in pain," Mason said. "When I interviewed him at the hospital he heard another child with cancer screaming. He looked at me concerned and said, 'Somebody should help that child.'"
Mason said the torture case is the one he's most proud of for bringing to a conclusion.
"Thankfully, through God's grace and awesome medical work, his life was saved at Sacred Heart," Mason said.
Mason said the cooperation of multiple other agencies helped bring finality to the case.
"This case really reached out to a lot of other areas," he said.
Gatfield, who has been employed at the police department for two years, received the report of the suicidal male from his wife last October. He had driven away from his home.
"I called him more than 20 times and he either wouldn't answer or he'd hang up on me," she said. "He was distressed and having marital problems."
Finally, the male agreed to meet Gatfield at the police department and leave the gun inside his vehicle.
"I tried to let him know that, even though he doesn't know me, I was there to help him and the only way I could do that was meet him in person," she said. "He finally felt like somebody cared. I was just happy to get him some help and to the hospital without hurting himself or somebody else."
Helmuth, Roberts and Harrison responded to the report of the 83-year-old man not breathing last December.
The three, along with the assistance of Kootenai County Fire and Rescue, performed CPR for about 30 minutes until the patient could breathe on his own.
"The last update that we received is that he now has some extra time on his clock," said Helmuth, who was the first emergency responder to arrive.
It was Helmuth's first such call.
"To have the training to save his life felt good," Helmuth said. "Other times it may not work out that way, but this time we got there fast enough to get him some extra time."
During Christensen's response, while administering CPR, he talked the patient's wife through the process of getting an automatic external defibrillator ready for use.
"Officer Christensen administered a shock, then continued with chest compressions until Kootenai County Fire and Rescue arrived on scene and took over life-saving measures," Chief Pat Knight said. "By the time KCFR transported the patient, he had regained a pulse."