NORTH MANKATO —
The boy weighed just 34.8 pounds and was 3 feet, 5 inches tall — about the weight of an average 4-year-old. The complaint said his bones were protruding. He had a slow heartbeat, brain atrophy and delayed bone growth.
The boy told officials he was given a liquid diet and he ruminated "because he wanted the taste of food and he did not know when he would eat again," the complaint said. He told authorities he was so hungry that he ate birdseed and rotting food from a compost pile.
Kohlmeyer said the county has jumped to conclusions. He said the boy was malnourished, but the Hauers didn't withhold food.
Court documents say Mona Hauer took the boy to a psychiatrist initially to deal with behaviors such as hoarding food. When they couldn't control his eating, the Hauers put an alarm on his door. Kohlmeyer said the parents had taken other foster children to psychiatrists, and tried to use the same disciplinary techniques with this boy.
"Looking back, it was a terrible mistake," Kohlmeyer said. "They vastly underestimated his mental health problems ... They tried the best they could."
Others didn't notice anything amiss. The Hauers are regulars at Bethel Baptist Church in Mankato and the children attended Wednesday bible classes, where Russell Hauer once helped out, said Ann Winch, a part-time church secretary.
Winch, who taught the Hauer children in Sunday school, said the parents never denied the boy treats in class, and while he was small, he didn't seem undernourished.
"There was never any sign of any abuse of any nature," Winch said. "They are a very loving family. They care for their kids, no doubt."
Chadderdon said the Hauers didn't get help when they needed it.