MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A southern Minnesota mother and father who were accused of starving their adopted 8-year-old son to the point that his bones protruded were sentenced to jail Tuesday on child neglect charges.
Mona and Russell Hauer adopted the boy in 2008 from an abusive household. Court documents show the child suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had eating issues that included regurgitating food. The Hauers allegedly fed him a liquid-only diet and put an alarm on his door so he would not steal food, documents show.
The Hauers entered Alford pleas in the case last month — a type of agreement in which they maintained innocence but acknowledged a jury could find them guilty.
In a statement read in court Tuesday, the Hauers said they were sorry, that they love their son and that they realize they made mistakes and fell short in getting him the help he needed.
“We look back and wish we would have done something sooner,” the North Mankato couple said. “We can tell you that we would never want or intend to harm anyone intentionally especially our own children.”
The Hauers, both 45, were charged last year after Mona Hauer thought the boy vomited blood and took him to a hospital, where he was found to weigh less than 35 pounds. He was 3 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed as much as an average 4-year-old, authorities said at the time.
The criminal complaint said he was “very thin, his bones were protruding, and his abdomen was distended.”
According to the complaint, the boy told officials the couple made him drink a liquid diet while the rest of the family ate. He told doctors he didn’t brush his teeth and regurgitated his food “because he wanted the taste of food and he did not know when he would eat again,” the complaint said.
The complaint said that at the time of the boy’s adoption, a doctor found he had experienced trauma that required intensive psychotherapy. The doctor gave several recommendations, but the Hauers did not follow through. Mona Hauer told authorities she only goes to doctors in serious situations and she put the boy on a liquid diet after talking with a chiropractor, according to the complaint.
Mona Hauer was sentenced Tuesday to 60 days in jail, and was taken into custody after the hearing. Her husband, Russell Hauer, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 15 days of home monitoring. He’ll be placed in custody after his wife’s sentence is complete. With good behavior, they’ll likely serve 40 days and 20 days respectively.
Nicollet County Sheriff’s Investigator Marc Chadderdon said the child is now in foster care and has grown 8 inches and more than doubled his weight in a year.
“Now he’s 76 pounds,” Chadderdon said. “There is no medical issue that got us to this point — it was actually just feeding him.”
Last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to terminate the Hauers’ parental rights to the boy, but keep their other three children, including the boy’s two biological siblings and the Hauers’ biological son.
Defense attorney Christopher Rosengren said that while the health concerns in this case were serious, the Hauers are good parents who did their best with a special-needs child. Rosengren said removing their son from the home was the worst punishment for them.
“They certainly didn’t want this to happen,” Rosengren said. “They would easily trade 60 days or more to get their son back.”
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