Woman found guilty of felony child neglect
By Rachel Kytonen
A case filed in September 2011 involving accusations of child neglect has resulted in three guilty verdicts after a 12-day court trial and a ruling by the presiding judge.
Anne Marie Hinrichs, 50, with previous addresses of Ogilvie, Minnesota and Freeport, Illinois, was charged in Isanti County District Court with four charges relating to child abuse, neglect and malicious punishment.
Judge Thomas Fitzpatrick presided over Hinrichs’ court trial earlier this year, Jan. 21 to Feb. 5.
Fitzpatrick’s ruling filed May 7 found Hinrichs guilty of felony neglect of a child that results in substantial physical harm or harm to their emotional health, gross misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child and gross misdemeanor criminal neglect. She was found not guilty of gross misdemeanor criminal abuse by a caregiver for a vulnerable adult.
Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad explained under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, a presumptive sentence would be a stayed one year and one day with the potential of fines, jail and other penalties. A sentencing date hasn’t yet been scheduled by the court.
“This was a very difficult and emotional case when you look at the length of time that the defendant’s conduct took place and the destructive impact that her conduct had on the victims,” Edblad said. “Lengthy criminal trials are physically and emotionally draining and I am proud of the work of Assistant Isanti County Attorney Deanna Natoli for litigating this long and difficult case. The victims of this case and the citizens of Isanti County were exceptionally well served by the work of Deanna Natoli and Assistant Victim Services Coordinator Cheryl Terhaar in seeing that justice was served by this prosecution. Strong cases are built on strong facts and the work of Isanti County Department of Family Services Social Worker Kelli Klien in investigating this case provided my office with the strong facts that led to conviction.”
The case brought by the state involved allegations of criminal abuse and neglect against one minor child.
In August 1997, the child, then 4, with her two siblings, then ages 5 and 7, were permanently placed under the care of Hinrichs. The family lived in rural North Branch.
In 2000, Hinrichs officially adopted all three children and remained their adoptive mother and legal guardian until February 2011.
According to the
ruling by Fitzpatrick:
In 1999, Hinrichs began receiving personal care attendant services. One of the PCA’s duties was to monitor the children while they used the bathroom. Hinrichs testified this was due to the children eating toothpaste, hand soap and other bathroom products, with these behaviors occurring between 2000-2003.
The children were required to have the bathroom door open anytime they used the shower or toilet and were never to use the bathroom unless they were being monitored.
Hinrichs installed alarms on the children’s bedroom doors. All three children testified Hinrichs would get upset if awakened by the alarm during the night and felt they were “locked in” their rooms all night, even though there wasn’t a physical lock on the 4-year-old’s door.
By 2002, the child was age 9, her siblings were ages 10 and 11, and they were all wearing pull-up toilet training diapers.
Hinrichs testified the training diapers were necessary because of the children’s bed wetting. The PCA testified she didn’t observe any problems with bed wetting until after they started wearing diapers.
Fitzpatrick ruled the combination of bathroom monitoring and all-night door alarms interfered with the child’s normal growth and development.
In the early 2000s, surveillance cameras were installed in the children’s bedrooms due to concerns about one of the siblings alleged inappropriate sexual behavior and another sibling’s alleged propensity to eat non-food items and self-harm. Hinrichs testified the cameras were approved by Isanti County. Fitzpatrick found Isanti County agents knew about the cameras, but never officially took a position on whether the cameras were appropriate or necessary.
From 2003-2009, the child was only alone and unmonitored when she was in her room with an armed, active alarm on her door. The PCAs were also instructed to continue to monitor her while in the shower. The court ruled this type of monitoring was unreasonable and unnecessary.
Hinrichs, along with support from an University of Minnesota neuropsychological evaluation, also required the North Branch School District to have paraprofessionals monitor the child at all times during the school days.
The court found the child’s food and eating were also strictly monitored by Hinrichs and the vast majority of reported poor behavior by the child at school involved food and issues with stealing food or taking it out of the garbage. These types of issues remained from 2003-2009.
The ruling states excessive writing assignments were used as punishment for bed wetting. For example, if the child wet the bed overnight, she would have to write “I will not wet the bed because it is unsanitary,” either 10 or 100 times. The writings were done in crayon because the child wasn’t allowed to have pens or pencils because Hinrichs claimed she would hurt herself with them. However, it was noted the child used pens and pencils every day at school without incident.
In February 2009, Hinrichs and the children moved to Ogilvie. The court’s previous findings related to necessary food, bathroom use, surveillance cameras and punishments continued to apply from 2009-2011.
In April 2009, the child began attending Ogilvie High School and Hinrichs’ surveillance cameras expanded beyond the children’s bedrooms and into the kitchen, basement and other areas of the home. The child’s bedroom door in Ogilvie had an alarm, and there was also a physical lock on the closet.
It was found in the Ogilvie home, there were locks on the kitchen cupboards and the basement freezer to prevent the child from accessing food she wasn’t given permission to eat. The judge ruled Hinrichs used food as a punishment against the child by ordering certain meals be skipped or serving a specific type of food she knew the child intensely disliked.
The court found the child’s discipline problems at school during this time period were connected to food, and the child was constantly hungry.
In December 2009, one of the child’s siblings, who was 19 at the time, notified school staff about the conditions in her home. Upon being notified that an abuse report had been forwarded to Isanti County by school staff, Hinrichs contacted the county and requested the sibling be removed from the home.
By January 2010, the child was the only one of her siblings still living with Hinrichs. The court said the living conditions and severe punishments continued and were enforced even more aggressively in 2010-2011. The child turned 18 in October 2010.
In February 2011, Ogilvie High School school staff reported suspected abuse of the child to Isanti County. After an initial investigation and personal observations of the living conditions, the child was removed from the home.
Immediately prior to the child’s removal on Feb. 15, 2011, Isanti County agents testified the child’s room had been “stripped” for at least four consecutive weeks; meaning her bedroom was empty except for one poster, a dresser, notebook for writing assignments, and a mattress without bedding. Her closet was padlocked, and there was a bucket of dirty water on the floor.
That same month, the child was examined by a doctor in Cambridge. The doctor found the child was underweight and underdeveloped for her age, malnourished and had concerns she was taking too many medications or incorrect medications.
After a couple of mental health sessions, the child was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and Tourette syndrome.
After the child’s removal from Hinrichs’ home, she was placed with an Isanti County foster home. Foster home representatives said the child was allowed to use the bathroom unsupervised and didn’t have any issues with bed wetting. She was also allowed to eat any type of food she wanted at anytime, and there weren’t any issues with stealing food or damaging the bathroom.
The child returned to the doctor after about one month, and the doctor noted her weight had increased from 96 pounds to 117 pounds, and she looked happier, healthier and closer to her age. The doctor said he wasn’t surprised by her rapid weight gain and considered it consistent with his prior diagnosis of malnourishment.