Family members and friends said that Katherine Bodem had a history of neglecting her children and that the baby's death "was bound to happen."
According to family members and friends, Katherine Bodem had a history of neglecting her children long before she was charged this week with second-degree manslaughter in the death of her 11-month-old daughter in the family's Lakeville home.
For years, they said Wednesday, they tried to persuade Bodem to seek help for her growing self-absorbed behavior. Bodem refused.
They said attempts to enlist the help of social service agencies in Le Sueur and Dakota counties failed because, they were told, no laws had been broken. Now they wonder what more, if anything, could have been done.
The death of Cecilia Bodem on Aug. 25 "was bound to happen, because no one would listen to us," said Rachel Bennett of Mankato, a close friend of Kathy Bodem's since second grade. "Maybe she doesn't deserve prison time, but she does need help."
Shortly after Cecilia was born Sept. 2, 2006, Kathy Bodem sent her mother a birthday card expressing love and gratitude. Weeks later, she obtained a restraining order from Dakota County barring her parents from visiting their home.
The grounds for the order, according to her mother, Betty Koberoski of Mankato: a lifetime of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
"When the deputy delivered it, I was in a state of complete shock," said Koberoski, who with her husband, Jim, has run a nursery for years in Mankato.
The Koberoskis hired a lawyer and prepared to contest the order. A hearing was set for Dec. 29. At the last minute, Betty Koberoski said, their daughter dropped the matter but said she would have them charged with trespassing if they tried to visit.
Concerned about her daughter and grandchildren, Koberoski said she called child protection officials in Dakota County. "They said there's nothing we can do because we haven't had any reports," she said.
Cecilia drowned in a bathtub at the family's home. She was in the tub with her brother, nearly 3, while their mother allegedly was shopping online for shoes. Kathy Bodem told police she had left the kids alone for a couple of minutes, but an examination of the computer showed that websites had been used for 19 minutes before the 911 call was made.
Bodem, 38, has no criminal record. Dakota County officials have said they were unaware of any contacts she may have with social workers. Calls to Kathy Bodem and her husband, Todd, were not returned Wednesday. Requests for information from police departments and county agencies went unanswered. Dakota County District Court have placed the couple's four children in Todd Bodem's custody. Kathy Bodem was released on $20,000 bail on condition that she not have unsupervised contact with her children.
Todd and Christine Redmann, former neighbors of the Bodems in Le Sueur, Minn., saw the family often. Todd Redmann said he doesn't doubt the parents cared about their children.
But he said the Bodem house often was in disarray, the kids in soiled clothes, while Kathy was busy filling shoeboxes with ads for diamond rings and other jewelry, things she said she was going to have someday.
Sometimes, Redmann said, he and his wife would watch the Bodem kids while trying to talk Kathy into getting help.
They got another surprise when their own kids came home from school one day in December 2005 and said the Bodems were moving. There was a moving van in front of their house and their phone was disconnected, Redmann said.
Last year, Bennett asked the Redmanns if they would help the Koberoskis contest the restraining order. The couple agreed and wrote a letter to the court detailing concerns about Kathy.
"As professionals, both with experience in the mental health field, the signs were clear to us," they wrote. "Kathy often displayed indications of disordered thought -- at times grandiose and manic, and at other times listless and with almost complete disregard for everything and everyone around her."
Kathy "consistently maintained that she felt no need to seek any kind of professional help or advice," they wrote. Her behavior became increasingly bizarre, including "an extreme preoccupation with wealth and material items."