An unlicensed in-home day care provider and mother of young children was charged Wednesday with inflicting “severe and permanent” brain damage to a 13-month-old boy at her Eagan home, an allegation that her attorney forcefully denied.
Mariel A. Grimm, 33, was charged by summons in Dakota County District Court with first-degree assault in connection with the wounds suffered by the boy on Sept. 22. Her first court appearance has been preliminarily scheduled for June 17.
“The baby survived,” a statement from the county attorney’s office read, “but suffered severe and permanent brain damage as a result of these injuries.”
County Attorney James Backstrom said in the statement that “abusive head trauma to infants and young children is a serious problem that often results in permanent brain injury or death.”
The criminal complaint pointed to no one witnessing the alleged assault. It also said the boy was fine when he was brought to the home in the 2000 block of Copper Lane. Grimm was the only adult in the home, and no other children in the home had unsupervised contact with the boy that day. His identity was not disclosed in the charging document.
Attorney Marc Kurzman said the county many months ago opened a child protection investigation against Grimm, who along with her husband have young children, one of whom is close in age to the injured boy. The family’s children are still in the home, he said, but Grimm is not allowed to care for other children during the proceedings.
“She has been under this cloud for many months now,” Kurzman said. “She is frantically trying to get this [criminal case] tried.”
Kurzman offered many reasons for why Grimm did not harm the boy. He said that psychiatric tests have shown “nothing to suggest she has anything wrong” that would lead her to “engage in ... shaken baby” actions.
He added that the boy’s mother told Grimm that the child “had fallen in his home a day before being brought to her home” on the day the boy slipped into unconsciousness.
The other family that had a child being looked after by Grimm at the time “have requested that their children continue to be cared for” by her, Kurzman said.
Monica Jensen, a spokeswoman for the county attorney’s office, said Grimm was not licensed and “offered home day care to a couple of children other than her own.”
She did receive “swaddle training,” Jensen added, which is “offered to anyone.”
At one time, Grimm taught pre-kindergartners at Divinity Lutheran Church, according to a staff member at the St. Paul house of worship.
According to the complaint:
Grimm called 911 early in the afternoon and said the boy, who had been in her care since he was 9 weeks old, was unresponsive.
She said the boy woke up crying about 8:45 a.m., and she changed his diaper, fed him and placed him in his pack-and-play before she began home-schooling her four children.
Again, the boy woke up crying, but this time he became “stiff ... and unresponsive,” the complaint read.
Grimm said she tapped the sides of his face to get him to wake up, and when that didn’t work, she brought him into the bathroom and began splashing cold water on his face.
Grimm called the boy’s mother, who told her to call 911.
A child abuse pediatrician who examined the baby found “no medical cause to account for [the boy’s] severe brain injury,” the charging document read. The pediatrician added that injury could not have been caused by a short fall or injury inflicted by another child in the day care.
The pediatrician also indicated that the boy’s bleeding on the brain suffered is an injury associated with actions such as a high-speed vehicle collision or “if a child is violently shaken or thrown,” according to the complaint.
“This clinical picture indicates that [the boy] was the victim of child physical abuse,” the court filing concluded.
However, Kurzman said, a pediatric neurologist for the defense has cited reasons other than shaking that causes injuries such as what the boy suffered.
“It’s all going to be forensic,” the attorney said, pointing to the evidence.