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Continued: Minnesota misses chances to save abused kids' lives

  • Article by: BRANDON STAHL , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 17, 2014 - 11:28 PM

Perdue faces sentencing next month after pleading guilty to child endangerment. She declined to comment. Authorities took custody of Perdue’s other three children after Dontrell died but returned them to their mother in 2013 for “trial visits,” according to court records.

Ramsey County officials said they could not talk about the case.

Death in a car

Clay County child protection began providing services for Andrew and Shayna Sandstrom in 2010 after Moorhead police responded to a call that two children, ages 2 to 3, were locked out of their home and standing in the rain.

Officers went to the children’s apartment and found dirty diapers strewn everywhere. A baby lay face down in her crib. The father, Andrew Sandstrom, told officers that he had fallen asleep when his kids went outside and did not know where they were, according to court records.

Four months later, officers returned to the apartment on a welfare check after a teacher reported that three of the children had not been to school for a week. Sandstrom told police the kids had been sick. County child protection decided that the complaint didn’t warrant providing the family with services.

The same decision was made following maltreatment reports in November 2011 and October 2012. A new case on the family was opened following a report in November 2012.

In June 2013, Sandstrom unloaded five of his children from a van, but forgot about 5-month-old Christiana, he later told police. The temperature outside was about 80 degrees; it may have reached 125 inside the van. Sandstrom watched a movie with his kids and took a nap. His wife, Shayna, called twice and asked how the kids were doing. He took another nap. After four hours, Sandstrom realized his mistake and rushed out to the van. Christiana’s face was purple. He called 911, but the girl was already dead.

The county removed the other children from the Sandstroms’ custody. They moved back into the home two months later.

Sandstrom pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced in January to 10 years of probation.

The seven deaths from 2013 don’t include cases where agencies received reports of abuse but did not step in to help the child. Last month, the Star Tribune reported that Minnesota was among the most prolific states at “screening out” reports of child abuse.

One screened-out case involved Nicole McKay of Sauk Rapids. She was 32 weeks pregnant and had a 1-year-old child, according to court records, when she contacted Benton County child protection in September 2013. She told the county she used prescription painkillers on a daily basis, did not know if she had a valid prescription, and wanted a drug dependency assessment. Because her child had not yet been born, the county took no protective action and suggested she contact her insurer.

Two months later, a medical clinic reported to the county that McKay had not brought her newborn daughter, Emma Dennis, back for a follow-up appointment after a possible pertussis diagnosis, and McKay wasn’t calling the clinic back. The county screened that call out, referring the family to a voluntary program for family support.

Four days later, on Nov. 25, Emma was found on the floor of her parents’ bed, a blanket covering her face. The child’s parents admitted to police they used drugs before the girl’s death. In addition, a son tested positive for meth and a narcotic painkiller after ingesting the drugs.

McKay pleaded guilty to child neglect in Emma’s death, and for storing meth near the son. The father has been charged with storing meth in the presence of a child and allowing a child to ingest the drug.

County officials removed the boy from the parents’ custody. They would not talk about the case.


Brandon Stahl • 612-673-4626

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