Oct. 10: Mom faces charges in baby's drowning

She was shopping online, complaint says; Dakota County attorney called death "tragic."

Katherine Renae Bodem

Katherine Renae Bodem, of Lakeville, was charged Tuesday in the bath tub drowning last summer of her 11-month-old daughter.

While a Lakeville mother shopped online for shoes, her 11-month-old daughter drowned in a bathtub upstairs, according to manslaughter charges filed against her on Tuesday.

"It's all my fault," Katherine Renae Bodem, 38, yelled after officers responded to a 911 call at the family's home on the afternoon of Aug. 25. According to the complaint, she repeated: "I'm so stupid."

Bodem told police she had left the girl, Cecilia, in the tub with her nearly 3-year-old brother for only a couple of minutes. When she no longer heard the kids playing, she went upstairs to check and found the boy trying to pull Cecilia out of the tub.

Bodem's 10-year-old daughter, who was downstairs playing with her two other brothers ages 7 and 8, told authorities her younger brother and sister were in the tub for about 20 minutes while her mother was on the computer looking for shoes to replace a pair she had damaged.

The girl said she heard Cecilia cry before her brother came downstairs and said, "Mom ... Cece," according to the complaint.

Lakeville police went to the home in the 20500 block of Jupiter Avenue and found two women outside trying to revive Cecilia. Meanwhile, the complaint said, Bodem was in the yard saying repeatedly, "I'm so stupid. This has been a horrible year for me."

Bodem told police she had tried to revive Cecilia by slapping her on the back and blowing air into her mouth. She said she thought Cecilia had stopped breathing for 10 minutes. Police found the tub was nearly full of water, with toys inside and outside the tub.

After learning Bodem had been online, police used a search warrant to examine her computer. A forensic inspection showed websites and search engines had been used to look for shoes for 19 minutes before the 911 call was placed.

Bodem was charged in Dakota County District Court with two counts of second-degree manslaughter, one for negligence and the other for causing the death of a child through neglect or endangerment.

"This is a terribly sad and tragic situation," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said. "We are not alleging this was intentional in any way. Nevertheless, we are alleging there was a significant lack of judgment that claimed a life."

Bodem apparently hasn't had any contact with child-protection officials and has no criminal record, officials said.

She was released from jail Tuesday on $20,000 conditional bail. The children will remain at home under the father's custody, Backstrom said, and Bodem may only have supervised contact with them. Calls to the family's home were not returned Tuesday.

The episode is the latest of a number of recent incidents involving manslaughter charges against parents.

Two weeks ago, a Minneapolis man was charged with second-degree manslaughter after his 7-year-old son was killed by the family's pit bull. Last month, Backstrom charged a Coon Rapids mother with murder and manslaughter in the drowning of her baby girl in Burnsville two years ago; in that case, the body has never been found.

In May, a Maplewood mother was sentenced to four years in prison for aiding and abetting manslaughter. Her 2-year-old son died of blunt-force injuries after she left him with her drug-intoxicated boyfriend.

If Bodem is convicted, Backstrom said, officials would evaluate all the circumstances before deciding what sentence to seek.

"Our sympathy goes to the family for their great loss," he said. "But we also believe this was a crime, and that's why these charges were filed."

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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Katherine Renae Bodem