For a little girl, the 4-year-old has endured a lot of abuse, and with her 2-year-old brother, she has required child-protection services before.

This week, the two were back in a county's care again, this time after St. Paul police alleged that their mother, Alexis A. Kennedy, had locked them in their apartment bedroom on the city's East Side by tying the door shut with a bungee cord.

When police went to the apartment -- tipped by a report of the girl walking around an icy parking lot without shoes or coat -- they found feces smeared on the walls and the 2-year-old boy crying in the room in a urine-soaked diaper, authorities said.

Kennedy, 24, also known as Alexis A. Smith, was charged Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court with two counts of child neglect, a gross misdemeanor. Bail was set at $10,000, and she was ordered to have no contact with her children.

In the courtroom, too, was her husband, Arthur Kennedy, 27, also of St. Paul, from whom Alexis Kennedy is separated, and who vowed after her appearance to do all he could to regain custody of his two children.

He acknowledged, however, that he could face difficulty in that area, having pleaded guilty Monday to domestic assault in a separate case involving his physical mishandling of an ex-girlfriend's 9-year-old daughter in December.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 21 in Ramsey County District Court.

"But I just can't sit and abandon them," he said of the planned attempt to win back the kids. "I have to try."

Allegations of abandonment, however, have been leveled against mother and father before -- though Arthur Kennedy says that 2006 case, too, was his wife's doing.

Hunger and abuse

About 1:40 p.m. Sunday, police went to the apartment on the 1000 block of Suburban Avenue after Alexis Kennedy's next-door neighbor reported the girl crawled out of her bedroom window and wandered into the parking lot. It was about 39 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

The neighbor brought the girl inside, according to charges filed against Alexis Kennedy Wednesday, and tried unsuccessfully to contact the mother.

When police arrived, the building caretaker told officers of the apparent habit of tying the bedroom door shut with a bungee cord, and the neighbor said she heard the girl yell out the window that she was hungry, the complaint said.

Police entered the apartment to find Kennedy's brother asleep on the living room floor, Kennedy and her boyfriend asleep in a bedroom, a bungee cord extending from the children's bedroom to a bathroom doorway, and the 2-year-old inside the room. Inside, too, were the stained walls. There were no sheets on the beds.

At first, Kennedy told police she'd put the bungee cord on the door because her daughter has "a hard time following directions and staying out of the kitchen," the complaint said. The next day, however, she denied having done it.

Arthur Kennedy, who lives elsewhere in the city, said Wednesday that his wife sleeps during the day because she claims to have insomnia, and regularly uses her computer until as late as 5 a.m. Her brother told police that if not for the computer, she'd sleep all day.

She does not have a job, her husband said.

History of neglect

According to Watonwan County, where the children previously had been placed in protective custody, Alexis Kennedy moved her family to St. Paul from Mankato on Aug. 31, 2007.

County records there show that in a Madelia trailer park, where the Kennedys lived with another family in late 2005 and early 2006, a witness saw a member of the other family "slam" the girl, then 3, "to the ground several times."

A subsequent police investigation found that Arthur Kennedy had left the trailer park on Jan. 13, 2006, and that Alexis Kennedy later left, too, to find her and the kids a new home.

She still was gone about two months later, however, triggering foster-home placements for the children after it was reported that the daughter had been abused. According to Watonwan County authorities, Alexis Kennedy "left her children in a home knowing that it was likely that her children would be physically assaulted." • 651-298-1545 • 651-298-1551


A 22-year-old man was sentenced to 5½ years in prison for assaulting his girlfriend's premature infant. B4