A man who routinely left his starving 2- and 3-year-old sons alone for long stretches at their Princeton area home, which smelled of dog feces and was littered with bags of marijuana, has eight months of jail time left after pleading guilty.
Michael S. Gunderson, 33, was sentenced recently in Sherburne County District Court after pleading guilty to two counts of felony child neglect. A felony drug possession charge was dismissed.
Given credit for time served since being charged last March, Gunderson was left with 271 days in jail remaining of a one-year sentence. He's allowed to serve that time on work release. A two-year prison term was stayed.
Judge Mary Yunker also placed Gunderson on five years' probation. During that time, Gunderson is barred from caring for or having contact with anyone under age 18, must abstain from alcohol and illicit drugs, and be subject to random chemical-substance testing.
According to court records, county Health and Human Services officials revealed that the 3-year-old weighed just short of 22 pounds and his 2-year-old brother less than 18 ½ pounds after being brought on March 13, 2015, to a Princeton hospital before their swift transfer to University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.
The mother, who had been working in Utah since early January 2015, had returned that day to find them alone in the Baldwin Township home and sharing a crib.
Court records noted that the boys' weights were "significantly below the growth curve and consistent with severe malnutrition," according to Dr. Nancy Harper, a pediatrician at the university hospital who specializes in child abuse prevention.
Gunderson would routinely lock his sons in a bedroom for more than 12 hours at a time while he went to work 35 miles away in Maple Grove, the court documents continued.
During one stretch, the documents continued, the father left the boys alone in the home, which smelled of urine and dog feces, for "two to three days while he left the state to attend a funeral in Wisconsin."
Gunderson told county officials that it was his practice to give the boys bananas and milk, change their diapers and head to work. Upon his return, the petition read, he would feed them soup "if enough electricity was available to cook it."
As noted in the charging document against Gunderson, the mother returned from Utah to find the older boy "holding feces in his hand like he was going to eat it." She added that it appeared neither child "had eaten in weeks."
A law enforcement search of the home in the 31600 block of 123rd Street NW. turned up a pound of marijuana scattered throughout the home in baggies and numerous items indicating that the drug was being cultivated in the home, according to the charges.
Gunderson's criminal history in Minnesota includes two convictions for drug possession and another for aiding and abetting second-degree assault.