MOORHEAD — A Minnesota woman who admitted to beating her foster baby to death in what prosecutors called a "vicious, animalistic attack" last year likely will be sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Kellie Jo Anderson, 36, of Barnesville, pleaded guilty Monday, May 3, in Clay County District Court to a second-degree felony murder charge that says she killed 18-month-old Henry Thomas Anderson without intent when she assaulted him at her home on April 24, 2020. In exchange for a plea agreement, the original second-degree murder charge that said she killed the child with intent was dismissed.
Anderson cried as she recalled the events that led up to Henry’s death. Initially, she told police the child threw himself several times from the bath to the toilet, which she claimed is how he injured his mouth, according to court documents.
Anderson said Monday in court that she kept Henry home from day care the day he died because he was running a fever. She said she couldn’t recall the exact sequence of events because she was on medication that clouded her memory.
She did remember noticing that Henry had cut his mouth while she was giving him a bath and was frustrated because she couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Then she hit him multiple times, she told the court.
“I don’t know exactly why I did what I did,” Anderson said. “I don’t know why I reacted like that.”
Henry was not breathing before Anderson drove him to the Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, she said. She performed CPR then got into the vehicle, she said.
Anderson, who is a nurse, did not call 911. She would only call emergency dispatchers if someone was unconscious or not responding, according to court documents.
She stopped at a McDonald's restaurant near the Fargo hospital to check on Henry, according to court documents. One witness who told Anderson to take Henry to the emergency room noted the child had blood on his face.
Emergency staff said the child was blue and lifeless when he arrived at the hospital, according to court documents. Henry had been dead for 40 minutes when Anderson brought him in, said Pamela Foss, the chief assistant attorney for Clay County.
Anderson faced 40 years in prison, but a plea agreement calls for 35 years behind bars, defense attorney Daniel Hopper said. Typically, Anderson would be subject to between 21 ¾ years and 30 ½ years since she doesn’t have a criminal history.
However, prosecutors sought an aggravated sentence since Henry was treated with what they described as particular cruelty. There was not a part on Henry’s body that wasn’t bruised, said Foss, who is prosecuting the case.
Henry had multiple injuries, including fractured jaw, broken ribs, massive internal bleeding and injuries to the child’s genital region, according to court documents. One doctor compared the child’s injuries to that of a severe car crash victim’s, court documents said.
Prosecutors called Anderson’s attack on the 18-month-old a “vicious, animalistic assault.”
Anderson and her husband planned to adopt Henry, who was born with methamphetamine in his system, according to court documents. The child was given up voluntarily by his mother, who is related to Anderson’s husband.
The husband was not charged.
The plea hearing comes a week before Anderson was slated to go to trial, which has been canceled. Anderson is scheduled to be sentenced on June 18.
Anderson will remain in jail until her sentencing hearing.