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Court documents: Teen, siblings were tortured by parents


Kim Norvell  |  The Des Moines Register

DES MOINES --- A 16-year-old West Des Moines girl who died of starvation  was tortured by her parents and deprived of food, clothing and health care, according to court documents released Friday.

Natalie Finn died Oct. 24 from emaciation due to denial of critical care, according to the Polk County medical examiner's office. Her mother, 42-year-old Nicole Marie Finn of West Des Moines, and father, 45-year-old Joseph Michael Finn II of Urbandale, were charged Thursday in her death.

Criminal complaints filed in Polk County allege Nicole Finn killed her daughter "intentionally, willfully, deliberately, with premeditation and malice aforethought."

Nicole and Joseph Finn are accused of secretly confining Natalie and two of her siblings, a 14-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy, inside their small, brick home on 15th Street near the intersection of Mountain Avenue in West Des Moines. They are accused of using "unreasonable force, torture or cruelty" to cause serious injury to the three children.

Nicole Marie Finn (left), 42, of West Des Moines and Joseph Michael Finn II (right) of Urbandale were arrested Thursday in connection with the death of their daughter, Natalie Jasmine Finn, police said. (Photo: Special to the Register)

The children were deprived of food, clothing, shelter, health care or supervision, which caused "substantial" physical, mental and emotional harm, according to the complaints. In Natalie's case, those actions caused her death, the complaints allege.

All three children are listed in the complaints as having a mental or physical disability.

In addition to the three children listed in the complaints, the Finns have two other children: the oldest turns 23 next week, and they have another 15-year-old. The couple shared joint custody of the children after filing for divorce in 2011. According to their divorce decree, the couple was receiving adoption benefits, though it doesn't say which of their five children were adopted.

Nicole and Joseph Finn have been ordered not to have contact with the three minor children.

Police began investigating the Finns after responding to the home in Octoberwhen Natalie was suffering cardiac arrest. She later died at a local hospital, police said. Nicole and Joseph Finn were arrested Thursday after police conducted more than 30 interviews related to the case.

Both face charges of first-degree kidnapping, child endangerment causing serious injury and neglect of a dependent person. Nicole Finn was charged with first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death.

She is being held in Polk County Jail on a $2.1 million cash bond. Joseph Finn has a $1.5 million cash bond. Initial court appearances are scheduled for Dec. 19.

Natalie was a student at Walnut Creek Campus, the alternative high school in West Des Moines, during the 2014-15 school year, but she was not enrolled this school year, according to the district. She was described by neighbors as outgoing and sweet, but neighbors said they had little interaction with the Finn children.

Neighbors had reported ongoing concerns about Natalie's well-being to the West Des Moines Police Department more than five months before her death. One of those neighbors, Becca Gordon, told the Register that Natalie would wear the same clothes for several days and smelled of body odor. The girl repeatedly asked neighbors for food for her and her siblings.

According to Secretary of State records, Nicole Finn owns and operates a pet rescue organization out of her West Des Moines home. CARE Pet Rescue had several Go Fund Me campaigns requesting money to pay for animal care. A description of the organization on adoptapet.com says its mission is "to place dogs into loving homes, but also to educate dog owners about responsible pet ownership."

2016 Dec 10