By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
NORTH MANKATO — A North Mankato couple accused of starving one of their four children pleaded not guilty to felony charges Wednesday during a hearing in Nicollet County District Court.
Russell and Mona Hauer, both 44, also filed a motion to dismiss charges of child neglect, endangerment and abuse due to a lack of probable cause, said Christopher Rosengren, the Mankato attorney representing them.
The Hauers’ 8-year-old adopted son weighed fewer than 35 pounds when Mona Hauer brought him to a doctor Oct. 9. She told a doctor she was concerned because the boy was not keeping food down.
An investigation was started by the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Department after the boy was sent to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester to be treated for starvation, a slow heart beat and anemia.
Investigators learned the boy had been fed a liquid diet and had been kept from eating other food, according to the criminal complaints. The Hauers allegedly slept outside of his bedroom to make sure he didn’t get up at night to eat. The complaints also accuse the Hauers of making the boy sleep in a plastic sled in the basement, cleaning him with a garden hose.
Rosengren and the Hauers’ other attorney, Jason Kohlmeyer, said the couple has not abused the child and the malnourishment was the reset of mental illness and trauma related, in part, to fetal alcohol syndrome.
County officials also have filed a civil lawsuit attempting to end the Hauers’ parental rights for the 8-year-old boy, two of his siblings who also were adopted by the Hauers and the couple’s biological child. Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer attempted to have the remaining three children removed from the Hauers’ home, but that request was denied by District Court Judge Todd Westphal.
A trial to decide whether the Hauers’ parental rights will be terminated is scheduled to start Monday.
The criminal trial is scheduled to start in May, Rosengren said. During Wednesday’s hearing for the criminal charges, Fischer requested to have recorded statements from the children used instead of their testimony for the criminal trial. Rosengren said the Hauers will ask District Court Judge Allison Krehbiel to deny the request.