MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Farmington man has been charged after three young children he was taking care of were found playing alone in a hotel parking lot, covered in mud, according to the Dakota County Attorney’s Office.
Benjamin Edward Barsness, 31, faces gross misdemeanor charges of child neglect and child endangerment in connection to the May 24 incident.
According to the criminal complaint, Farmington Police were dispatched at 8 a.m. to a local hotel for a child welfare check concerning unsupervised children in the hotel parking lot, which is near a busy two-lane highway.
Upon arrival, an officer found a 4-year-old child on top of a minivan, a 2-year-old child standing next to a van with two small screwdrivers in his mouth and another 2-year-old child on the side of the hotel near the highway. All were covered in mud and only wearing diapers.
The man who called police said that he first saw the children at around 6:30 a.m. playing on his deck. At around 8 a.m., he saw one of the kids on top of a vehicle and at that point became concerned and called police.
The police officer soon located the hotel room where the children were believed to have been staying. After announcing himself several times with no response, the officer entered the hotel room and made contact with Barsness, who smelled strongly of alcohol. He also had watery, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, the complaint said.
After waiving his constitutional right to remain silent, Barsness admitted he was the sole provider for the children and had been drinking vodka and soda between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. He said he forgot to lock the door and did not hear the police until they were inside his room. He said the children were sleeping in the same bed with him when they went to bed at 10 p.m., according to the complaint.
If convicted, Barsness could face up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine per charge.