Golden Valley girl removed from home amid 'shocking' neglect

  • Article by: BRANDON STAHL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 30, 2014 - 11:48 PM

The mother of the Golden Valley girl was charged with child endangerment after a police sting.

A 9-year-old Golden Valley girl suffered through what police called “shocking” neglect.

She was surrounded by drug needles while her parents smoked crack, according to a petition filed by Hennepin County Child Protection. She slept near buckets of urine. She was forced to stay in the basement with her father as her mother, 34-year-old Jennifer Menges, ran a prostitution business upstairs, the petition said.

Last month, authorities removed the girl from the home. Menges was charged Thursday with child endangerment, a gross misdemeanor.

“This is just a shocking, heartbreaking case,” said Jeff Johnson, a Golden Valley police investigator

A man who answered the door at the home on the 3400 block of Terrace Lane said he wouldn’t comment.

According to court records:

Police set up a sting at the home on April 8 after finding an Internet advertisement for a massage business at the address and suspecting that prostitution was going on inside.

An undercover officer got a massage. When Menges allegedly offered the officer sex, police moved in.

That prompted the girl’s father, David Menges, to come up from the basement. Police went down and found the 9-year-old girl sleeping on the sofa. Two-gallon containers of urine were found in the house. Drug paraphernalia and needles were scattered everywhere. Blood spattered the walls and floors. “Police considered this a biohazard incident,” the petition said.

Police took Jennifer Menges to the Hennepin County jail, but jail officials refused to book her because of the oozing sores on her arms. Police then took her to the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room, where she denied using drugs. She said that the abscesses were caused by bites from “herding feral cats” and that she was draining the wounds with needles. She left the hospital without getting treatment.

Girl interviewed

Three days later, a child-protection investigator interviewed the girl at her school. The girl said her mother got $80 an hour and “might even get a tip” for the massages. When clients came to the door, her mother would yell “he’s here” and the girl said she would know to be quiet, the petition said. The girl told the investigator she had to stay downstairs with her father and could come up when her mother was done working.

The girl told the investigator that her mother “needs a lot of medication.” She described how she watched her mother wrap a tie around her arm, take a spoon with “hot water” in it, put the liquid in a syringe and inject it into her arm. The girl described the other medicine her mother took as the “white crumble stuff” that the cat chewed on. The girl said her mother “feels a bit better when she takes her medication” and that she usually needs her medicine “in the morning and afternoon.”

The child-protection worker requested that police put the girl in protective custody.

Mother’s trial set

On April 14, child-protection investigators spoke with David Menges, who told them his wife had been shooting heroin two to three times a day for the past year or two. He said that he didn’t use the drug, but that he and his wife used crack “a couple times a month,” the petition said. He said he did not know of any prostitution happening in the home.

According to his website, David Menges runs an art studio out of the couple’s house, in the neighborhood of single-family homes.

On April 16, Hennepin County filed the Child in Need of Protection or Services petition with the county juvenile court. The girl is still in out-of-home placement, court records show. Jennifer Menges has denied the charges in the petition, setting up a trial that is scheduled for Aug. 8.

Hennepin County Child Protection could not talk about the case and whether previous allegations of abuse or neglect in the family had been reported to them, program manager Dan Ryan said.

According to the child protection petition, Jennifer Menges was convicted of child neglect in 1997 and 1998 in Wisconsin. A warrant was issued for her arrest in that state in January 2013 for failing to pay child support, according to court records.

Brandon Stahl • 612-673-4626

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