Troubled Roseville mom suspect in girls' stabbing

  • Article by: TERRY COLLINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 22, 2008 - 7:10 AM

The attack on her two daughters and herself has left friends struggling to understand the loving mother they know.

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Authorities investigate the scene of a multiple stabbing in Roseville.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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A single mother who apparently stabbed her two young daughters and herself Thursday afternoon in their well-kept Roseville townhouse may have been overwhelmed by stress and financial problems, a close friend said.

Sylvia Sieferman, 60, and Hannah and Linnea Sieferman, both 11, were rushed to Regions Hospital in St. Paul after Sieferman repeatedly stabbed the girls and herself, police said.

Roseville police and investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were summoned to the Westwood Village III townhouse in the 400 block of County Road C around 2 p.m. after one of the girls, bleeding from stab wounds, ran to a neighbor's house for help.

Sieferman and one of the girls are in critical condition, while the girl who ran for help is in stable condition, Roseville police Capt. Rick Mathwig said.

A Regions Hospital spokeswoman declined to say which girl was critical and which was stable, saying that parental permission is needed to release such information.

Police said Sieferman is the sole suspect in the stabbings but declined to speculate about motive.

"It's just a sad case," Mathwig said.

Neighbors said Sieferman is a single mother who adopted the girls from China. Her online blog identifies the girls as Hannah, adopted in 1999, and Linnea, adopted in 2003.

The blog contains Sieferman's account of her longheld desire to adopt daughters from overseas and her joy upon meeting them and watching them grow.

In an April 2005 post on a background of pink hearts, she described the girls as "wonderful, smart and loving."

In 2001, when Hannah was 4, Sieferman wrote that "it's so interesting to watch her active mind at work -- she's always thinking ...

"Her enthusiasm for just about anything life has to offer is undimmed."

Former neighbor Carrie Micko said Sieferman was struggling with financial problems that began when she was laid off by her employer, the Guidant Corp. (now Boston Scientific) in 2004. She was also having trouble selling another Roseville residence she had moved out of but still owned. That property is in foreclosure, and a sheriff's sale is to take place soon, she said.

Micko described taking Sieferman to a hospital this summer after Sieferman expressed suicidal thoughts. Neighbors watched her daughters while Sieferman was hospitalized a few days, Micko said.

"She reached her limit," Micko said. "She couldn't cope anymore. Any conversation I had with her was about how she wanted to take care of her kids, and she probably felt she couldn't do that anymore.

"She was so concerned about her daughters. What would happen to them? Who would take care of them? I know this sounds paradoxical, [but] she felt that her daughters were suffering because she was failing to provide for them."

However, as recently as Wednesday, Sieferman was sounding upbeat, Micko said. During a phone call, Sieferman told Micko that she was following up on job leads, Micko said.

Sieferman was one of more than 50 plaintiffs in an age-discrimination lawsuit against Guidant. In August 2004, she was among 721 employees laid off and given severance benefits. The suit, filed in 2006 in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, claimed that of the 721 employees laid off, 450 were over age 40, according to court papers.

The case is still pending, with a settlement conference scheduled for Oct. 8 and 9 before Magistrate Judge Susan Richard Nelson.

Micko said that Sieferman was highly educated, knowledgeable about computers and had hopes of finding a good job and getting back on track financially. She had worked a few short-term jobs over the past four years, she said.

'A very tragic thing'

Florence Schmidt, a neighbor in the complex of neat, tan townhouses, said she was "devastated" to hear of the stabbings in the tight-knit community.

She described Sieferman as a very private person. But the girls, who often waved to her, are friendly and sweet, she said, and love to go to a nearby swimming pool and to fly around on in-line skates.

"You would never expect something like this to happen," Schmidt said. "We are all so upset, because it happened to one of ours. It's a very tragic thing."

Mathwig said that when police arrived at the townhouse complex, they found one child outside with "lacerations" and Sieferman just inside the townhouse entry with "multiple lacerations" that appeared self-inflicted. The critically injured child was inside.

Sieferman was taken into custody and treated by paramedics after a brief struggle, Mathwig said.

Police removed several knives and other cutting instruments from the scene.

Charges expected today

Police will present their evidence to the Ramsey County attorney's office, which is expected to charge Sieferman with several felonies as early as today, Mathwig said.

Another neighbor, John Brynildson, who raced outside after hearing sirens, cringed as he watched the blood-covered Sieferman being treated by paramedics.

He said he fears for the girls' emotional health.

"I don't know what would prompt a mother to do that to her own children," Brynildson said. "Their bodies will heal, but it's the spiritual part that I worry about.

"These girls will probably never forget what happened."

Micko said that she sees Sieferman as "a poster child for what's going on in this economic crisis. ...

"She's not an evil person. She's very loving."

Staff writer Anthony Lonetree contributed to this report. Terry Collins • 612-673-1790

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