A south Minneapolis day-care worker was arrested Friday after allegedly hanging a 16-month-old boy in her charge. The child was rescued, but the day-care worker fled, initiating a chase that sent three people to the hospital and ended with passers-by and police preventing her from jumping off an overpass.
The toddler, who was enrolled at Uptown Daycare in the 2700 block of Humboldt Avenue S., in the East Isles neighborhood, was reportedly found hanging by a parent who was dropping off a child, police said. Police did not say in what part of the house the child was found.
The boy was taken to a hospital for observation, but was “doing fine,” Assistant Police Chief Kris Arneson said. She said the suspect is not the boy’s mother.
“It’s horrific, horrific,” Arneson said of the assault on the child. “We never want children to be injured; that’s part of the reason we call in our chaplains. It’s a horrific scene for officers to encounter, and the victims in this case have injuries based on her actions.”
The suspect, identified by police as Nataliia M. Karia, 42, fled the scene in a gold minivan, ran over a man standing near his vehicle at 28th Street and Grand Avenue S., then kept going and struck a bicyclist at 28th Street and Park Avenue S., nearly 2 miles east of the day care.
The pedestrian was dragged a significant distance, police said, and suffered broken bones and scrapes. The bicyclist suffered a broken leg. Both were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.
A third person struck by the suspect’s car, Nicole Thomas, 33, of Minneapolis, had left Wellstone High School and was driving on Park Avenue toward downtown when her car was hit.
Thomas, who is almost six months pregnant, was taken to a hospital for monitoring and released after a few hours.
“It was scary,” Thomas said Friday evening from her home. “I’m better now, but I was shaken up all day. It was definitely crazy to be part of and to witness. I feel really lucky, given the circumstances, and I hope everyone else involved is OK.”
Thomas said after Karia hit her car, she kept driving. Thomas then saw the bicyclist inching himself away from the street. Passers-by gathered and called 911.
About 20 minutes later, Karia was seen on the Park Avenue overpass above Interstate 94, where she was threatening to jump onto the highway, Arneson said.
Several passers-by held her down until police could take her into custody. She is being evaluated at a nearby hospital and is in police custody.
Police chaplains were sent to the day-care facility to talk to parents who arrived to pick up their children after the incident, as well as to HCMC and other sites to “talk to anyone who has been affected by this difficult case,” police said in a news release.
Motive is a mystery
The day-care facility is registered to Karia, whose license, state records show, was issued in April 2009 and was set to expire next spring. The home is approved to care for up to 12 children.
Arneson said no motive has been established. “We don’t know what was happening with her,” she said.
The day care’s Facebook page shows a photo of a smiling woman surrounded by young children of different ages.
The page touts the provider as a licensed and college-educated mom.
“I am trained in first aid and CPR,” it reads. “I have a luxury home with a large fenced yard just steps away from the Lake of the Isles that has been remodeled for the safety of your child.”
Later Friday, the purple two-story frame house on a block dominated by brick apartment buildings was quiet and seemingly empty. A single unmarked police SUV was parked down the block.
Sometime before 2 p.m., a small car slid into the garage in the back of the house, which is owned by Karia’s husband, and several people went inside.
An older man declined to give his name or answer a reporter’s questions.
“We’ve got nothing to say,” he said.
Staff writer Karen Zamora contributed to this report.