ST PETER —
The boy was about 3-foot-5 and 34 pounds when he was first brought to the hospital, she said. He has since grown more than 2 inches and has gained more than 22 pounds.
Nicollet County Social Services authorities asked Atherton to investigate after the boy’s situation was reported by Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. Nicollet County officials were concerned about a conflict of interest because the county had licensed the Hauers to provide foster care, Atherton said.
The hospital report was made Oct. 9 and Atherton called Mona Hauer on Oct. 10. They arranged to meet at the boy’s hospital room in Mankato for an interview the following day. After that first interview, Atherton said he was led to believe the boy had an eating disorder and he was going to keep his initial plan to suggest counseling options for the family.
That plan changed Oct. 17, however, after Atherton received another report from doctors at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, where the Hauers’ son had been transferred to be treated. That report said there was no medical reason for the boy’s malnourishment. The boy was starving because his parents had been punishing him by not allowing him to eat, Atherton said.
The Hauers rarely brought the children to medical doctors and said they had been treating the boy’s eating problems through advice from a chiropractor. If the boy hadn’t found a red popsicle to eat, which melted on his shirt and made Mona Hauer think he was spitting up blood, he wouldn’t have been taken to the hospital, Atherton said.
He decided to call law enforcement and start an in-depth investigation, which resulted in Atherton and Nicollet County sheriff’s investigator Marc Chadderdon going to the Hauers’ house on Oct. 23. Mona Hauer was interviewed again and the three other children were taken to a social services office in North Mankato to be interviewed. Russell Hauer was out of town on business, Atherton said.