A day care client of a Minneapolis woman accused of harming a 16-month-old boy last week by hanging the child says the provider has been “like a second mother to my son,” and what she did was “completely inconsistent with who I know her to be.”

Shannon Keough first commented about provider Nataliia Karia in an invitation-only Facebook group and then expressed her impressions in a statement submitted Saturday to the Star Tribune.

Karia, 42, was arrested midday Friday after allegedly hanging the 16-month-old boy in her charge at the family day care in the 2700 block of Humboldt Avenue S.

The boy was rescued and most recently was said by Assistant Police Chief Kris Arneson to be “doing fine.” But Karia fled in her minivan, setting off a city street chase that sent three people she struck to the hospital and ending with passersby and police preventing her from jumping off an interstate overpass just south of downtown.

Karia remains in police custody and has yet to be charged.

Keough, 38, said she first started bringing her soon-to-be 3-year-old son to Karia’s day care when he was about 10 months old. “I always trusted her completely and never had any reservations about dropping him off with her.”

She said that in all that time, “I’ve always known her to be a loving and generous day-care provider and mother.”

Her son became friends with Karia’s daughters, and “in fact, my two children [the son and a 5-year-old daughter] and hers went trick-or-treating together on Halloween.”

Keough emphasized that she’s not making excuses for what Karia is accused of doing, “but I strongly believe that what she did is completely inconsistent with who I know her to be in general — a caring woman.”

While acknowledging that it’s “not my place to diagnose,” Keough noted that Karia’s youngest daughter just had her first birthday in the past couple of weeks, and “I suspect she was struggling with postpartum depression or something similar. I feel a sense of guilt that I didn’t notice she was struggling — how isolated she must have felt.”

During a news media briefing Friday afternoon, Arneson said no motive has been established. “We don’t know what was happening with her,” the assistant chief said.

Police say Karia ran over a man standing near his vehicle at W. 28th Street and Grand Avenue S., then kept going and struck a bicyclist at E. 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. His identity has not been disclosed.

The bicyclist, 29-year-old Jacob Carrigan, suffered a broken leg. Both were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Carrigan, a vegan butcher at the Herbivorous Butcher in northeast Minneapolis, was biking to work when he was hit, his employer said in a Facebook posting. He had surgery Saturday and “is expected to fully recover,” the posting continued.

A third person struck by the suspect’s van, Nicole Thomas, 33, of Minneapolis, had left Wellstone International 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.

Several passersby held down Karia on the Park Avenue overpass above Interstate 94 until police could take her into custody and have her evaluated at a nearby hospital.

 

aimee.tjader@startribune.com