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Baby Owen case in West Fargo 'frustrating,' but not considered cold

WEST FARGO--It's been 18 months since 6-month-old Owen Skodje died after he was found unresponsive at an unlicensed day care here, but while the investigation into his death has grown dormant, police say the only open potential homicide case in t...

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Owen Skodje

WEST FARGO-It's been 18 months since 6-month-old Owen Skodje died after he was found unresponsive at an unlicensed day care here, but while the investigation into his death has grown dormant, police say the only open potential homicide case in the city is not yet considered cold.

"It's frustrating, but that is where we are at," said West Fargo Detective Tim Runcorn. "Officially, it's not a cold case. It's just not doing a whole lot right now."

Runcorn said he plans to conduct additional interviews in early 2017.

Owen, the son of Casey Skodje and Kristin Hunstad of Fargo, was found unresponsive at day care about 1 p.m. June 1, 2015. He was hospitalized in Fargo before dying the next day at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.

Investigators and Minneapolis-based Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker-who performed Skodje's autopsy and in September said his death was caused by a head and brain injury-said the autopsies and subsequent death investigations of children can take longer because of complex details that are difficult to pinpoint in small children.

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Police and attorneys have also had a difficult time scheduling needed interviews, especially because Skodje's parents have moved from this area, Runcorn said.

The couple could not be reached for comment.

The day care provider, Darcy Jo Anderson, is believed to still be in the area, Runcorn said.

Anderson told officers last year that Owen went limp in her arms as she held him, court records state. She told police she was trying to get the agitated infant to drink his bottle.

Casey Skodje told police his boy was healthy until early May and had been sick since then, losing about a pound in a little less than a month.

Runcorn said earlier this year that the autopsy did not specify when Owen was injured, further complicating the case.

At the time of the incident, Anderson's day care was not licensed. Day cares do not have to be licensed if five or fewer children are in the home, but Cass County Human Services opened an investigation into Anderson's day care and found eight children under her care on June 4.

Ruby Kolpack, a Cass County Human Services licensing specialist, said she sent a report on Anderson's day care to the Cass County State's Attorney's Office for possible charges.

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Under state law, an unlicensed provider who cares for more children than what is allowed can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.

Cass County Prosecutor Cheri Clark said no charges have been filed against Anderson regarding the day care, but the case, in conjunction with the active West Fargo police investigation, into Owen's death is still open.

Anderson's day care license was revoked in 2011 after multiple complaints alleging she was rough with children, smoked in the home, and yelled at the children and a parent.

Kolpack said her office only does regular checkups on licensed day cares or if she receives a complaint regarding an unlicensed day care operating with more children than allowed. As of Dec. 22, Kolpack had not received any complaints regarding Anderson.

Owen's parents donated their son's organs.

Timeline

May 2015: Casey Skodje said his son started feeling sick in May, losing about a pound over a little less than a month.

June 1, 2015: Baby Owen Skodje is found unresponsive at an unlicensed West Fargo day care at 1:23 p.m.

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June 2, 2015: Owen is flown to the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis where he died.

June 3-4, 2015: Owen is taken off life support machines that were keeping his body alive while his parents decide whether to donate his organs.

June 4, 2015: Day care provider Darcy Jo Anderson tells The Forum she has hired Fargo attorney Mark Western. Western tells media it is not appropriate to comment on the case at this time.

June 4, 2105: Cass County Social Services licensing specialists find eight children at the home of Anderson. North Dakota law allows for day care operators to care for up to five children, including their own, without a license. A report for possible charges is forwarded to the Cass County state's attorney.

June 8, 2015: Preliminary autopsy results list blunt force trauma as cause of death.

June 10, 2015: Owen's funeral is in Willmar, Minn.

June 21, 2015: Search warrant records filed in Cass County District Court show that Fargo doctors found fractures in the infant's skull - recent fractures and possibly an older one - as well as retinal hemorrhages and recent trauma.

Sept. 15, 2015: West Fargo police receive final autopsy report. Results do not pinpoint time of death.

EDITOR'S NOTE: To close out the year, reporters from The Forum are returning to stories that made headlines to see what's new. Look for a Following Up story every day through early January.

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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