ST PETER — Investigators say a malnourished North Mankato child was starved to the point that he foraged for food in a compost pile, was regularly beaten with boards in front of his three siblings and was rebuked so often he was viewed as “the Antichrist” of the family.
An attorney representing the 8-year-old boy’s parents accused those investigators of jumping to conclusions about his 44-year-old clients, Russell and Mona Hauer. Jason Kohlmeyer said the couple had been considered “fantastic” foster care parents before Mona Hauer brought her adopted son to the hospital to be treated for problems resulting from what she believed was an eating disorder.
As a trial to decide whether the Hauers will be allowed to keep their parental rights started Monday before Nicollet County District Court Judge Todd Westphal, Kohlmeyer said he would provide evidence that allegations of child abuse are unfounded. The family went to church every Sunday and spent summer weekends camping a Kiesler’s Campground in Waseca.
“Their neighbors at the campground will say the abuse is not possible,” Kohlmeyer said during his opening statement before Westphal, who will decide whether to terminate the Hauers’ parental rights. “Investigators didn’t interview them. Once their mind was made up, they didn’t want to go back and change it.”
The boy spent about a month in the hospital to be treated for starvation and was brought to a foster home in another city after he was released. The Hauers’ other three children also were taken from the home just north of Mankato on Highway 169 after the child abuse investigation started. Westphal issued an order saying those children should be returned to the home after the Hauers challenged their removal.
Victor Atherton, a Le Sueur County child abuse investigator, was the first witness called by Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer. She told Westphal she wants all of the Hauers’ children removed because they were abused by being forced to participate in their brother’s alleged abuse.