St. Paul woman who refused care for disabled son pleads guilty

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2011 - 6:59 PM

Her attorney said she wanted to spare her 35-year-old son the stress of a trial.

A St. Paul woman accused of refusing to let doctors treat a serious burn on her disabled adult son's foot, ultimately causing his leg to be amputated, pleaded guilty Friday in Ramsey County District Court.

Christine Ruth Nelson, 61, pleaded guilty to a gross-misdemeanor count of neglect of a vulnerable adult. She will be sentenced May 16 by District Judge J. Thomas Mott.

"To be quite honest, she didn't want to put her son through the turmoil or strain or stress of going through trial," Nelson's attorney, Kevin DeVore, said of her decision to plead guilty. "She absolutely loves her son. This has been really, really hard on her."

According to the criminal charges, the victim is a 35-year-old autistic and developmentally delayed man. He can't speak but can communicate a little by pointing at letters and making some sounds.

On July 2, the man was walking barefoot outside when he stepped on something and severely burned the bottom of his right foot.

His mother took him to a medical clinic for the first time on July 29, where a doctor noted "deep tissue loss" and recommended he be admitted to the burn unit at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Nelson refused, the complaint said.

She took her son to clinics and hospital emergency rooms five more times between Aug. 5 and Oct. 11. Each time, the wound got worse, and each time she was told that her son needed to be hospitalized.

When Nelson took the man to the emergency room at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood on Oct. 26, the wound had turned gangrenous, the complaint said. The man's leg had to be amputated up to the knee.

DeVore said Nelson's son, who is living in a care facility, has a new guardian who is not a family member.

"It sounds as though things are going very well for him," the attorney said.

Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992

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