Missing girl's family had long history with child protection workers

Garbage from the home is thrown in the backyard.
Couches, mattresses, toys and other garbage from the home are scattered in the backyard of the property on the 8200 block of Queen Avenue in Brooklyn Park Tuesday, June 19, 2018.
Jiwon Choi | MPR News

The Brooklyn Park mother who reported her 11-year-old daughter missing Monday has a long history with child protection workers, most recently involving the unexplained death of her 8-year-old son, according to court records.

The girl was found safe, but the probe into her disappearance revealed that the family has been the subject of repeated investigations alleging physical and sexual abuse and threats of violence for at least a decade, including one case that ended in a criminal conviction for malicious punishment of a child in 2006.

The two most recent petitions for protection were filed in Hennepin County Juvenile Court after the February death of the mother's 8-year-old son. One was a request for emergency protection in February and another petition was filed in May. Yet the children were still living with their mother in Brooklyn Park, a suburb of Minneapolis.

The Medical Examiner had not determined a cause or manner of death for the boy. Authorities said they are continuing to investigate the death.

Children protection records said doctors found scars on the boy's back that indicated he had been hit with a belt or cord, along with other scars.

The mother reported the boy's older sister a runaway after the two argued at about 3 a.m. Monday and she walked away from the home in the 8200 block of Queen Ave. N. Authorities said the mother was not cooperative.

MPR News is not naming the mother nor the children because of the abuse allegations.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed Tuesday in the missing-girl case, the mother told police she had "rat-tailed maggots" coming out of her skin. Officers found the home flooded and the woman told them that she had been throwing boiling water on the walls to get rid of the "bugs," the search warrant said.

Officers took the mother to North Memorial Hospital Monday. They found her 12-year-old son sleeping in a swing in the rain in nearby Norwood Park, her 7-year-old daughter at a friend's home and her 3-year-old child inside the home.

The missing 11-year-old girl was found about 20 miles away in Bloomington Monday afternoon by neighbors who said she was sitting outside a medical clinic.

All the children were taken into protective custody Monday night. The city declared the home uninhabitable.

A home on the 8000 block of Queens Ave in Brooklyn Park
A home on the 8200 block of Queens Avenue where an 11-year-old girl was reported missing. She was later found safe.
Jiwon Choi | MPR News

Landlord: 'There are a lot of problems'

Calvin Johnson, who owns the split-level home, said the family moved in about four or five years ago. He said Tuesday that he was moving to evict them.

"Mess, just a lot of stuff, there are a lot of problems," Johnson said at the home Tuesday.

Grimy toys, dusty couches, stained mattresses and yellowed books were haphazardly dumped on the deck of the house Tuesday morning when Johnson returned with two workers from Kaba Junk Removal. When Johnson opened the garage of the house, it was full of trash, abandoned bikes, toys and a car.

The search warrant said all the bedding and mattresses had been thrown out of the home when officers arrived Monday.

A home on the 8000 block of Queens Ave in Brooklyn Park
A home on the 8200 block of Queens Avenue in Brooklyn Park was deemed unfit for human habitation.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Neighbors said they often saw children playing in front of their house, rarely with adult supervision.

"The children are always out in the cul-de-sac playing and being pretty unruly," said Andy Sicheneder who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years. "I never saw the mom."

Judge returns one child home, according to records

The child protection records indicate county workers removed some of the children at times during their investigations. But often they were allowed to live with her under protective supervision.

In one case, county workers removed an older child from the home after allegations that he sexually abused two younger siblings.

However, a judge returned that boy to his mother in 2016 "over the objection of the department" of Health and Human Services.

Hennepin County deputy administrator of Health and Human Services Jennifer DeCubellis said child protection services is continuing efforts to protect the children.

In an emailed statement, DeCubellis said the county did "everything possible in the matter, including providing relevant facts and findings in court petitions."

She noted the system was complex, to ensure all voices are heard, and that "the juvenile court makes the final decision."

The Associated Press contributed.

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