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Wait for autopsy delays homicide investigation for baby found unresponsive at West Fargo day care

WEST FARGO - Police here are still waiting on a report from a Minnesota medical examiner to move forward with an investigation into the June death of a 6-month-old Fargo boy that's been ruled a homicide.

Owen Skodje

WEST FARGO – Police here are still waiting on a report from a Minnesota medical examiner to move forward with an investigation into the June death of a 6-month-old Fargo boy that's been ruled a homicide.

West Fargo Police Chief Michael Reitan said Wednesday there is no new information to release about Owen Skodje's death. West Fargo police still haven't received the final autopsy report, he said.

It's possible no charges will be filed in the case, Reitan said.

"We may never know, that's the other side of the matter," Reitan said. "We may not get to the point where somebody is charged."

Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker said the final autopsy report is done, but it is not public information under state law. Baker could not comment on any specifics of Skodje's case.


Reitan said while testing may take some time, he's not sure what exactly has caused the report's delay.

"It seems unusual," Reitan said. "When we talk to other agencies, they say it's unusual as well."

Baker said the complexity of infant and child cases can cause the final report to take months before it is finished.

"In the real world, what we do is measured in weeks, sometimes in months, not hours," Baker said. "And infant and small-child cases are among the most complex that we do."

Baker said his office does a thorough autopsy, which can include extensive testing and re-testing of samples, use of cultures, toxicology tests and even calling in outside help.

"Particularly in complex infant cases, we often have to bring in an expert," he said.

The Minneapolis-based medical examiner's office ruled Skodje's death a homicide and said the infant died as a result of complications from a head injury. Baker's office handled Skodje's autopsy after he died June 2 at the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.

Skodje, the son of Fargo couple Casey Skodje and Kristin Hunstad, was flown there after emergency crews were called to an unlicensed day care provider at a West Fargo residence on June 1 on a report of an unresponsive child.


A preliminary autopsy report released in June declared Skodje had died of blunt force trauma to the head, but when the trauma occurred has remained a question for investigators.

A search warrant for the day care filed in Cass County District Court in June by West Fargo police states that the first doctor to see Owen in Fargo said Owen's brain injury appeared to have happened about the time of the 911 call that was made by the 15-year-old daughter of Darcy Jo Anderson, the operator of the home day care. Owen had been in Anderson's care since early that morning, police said.

Search warrant records also showed that doctors found fractures in the infant's skull - recent fractures and possibly an older one - and retinal hemorrhages and recent trauma.

Reitan expects the autopsy report to review the extent of Skodje's injuries along with information that might help determine when those injuries occurred.

"When injuries may have occurred and other information like that will just help investigators determine who needs to be re-interviewed or needs to be interviewed," Reitan said. "The purpose of the report is it's going to give us some direction to where we need to go with the investigation."

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

Reitan said he had not received any complaints about Anderson since the incident. Cass County Social Services had found Anderson was caring for eight children days after Owen was taken from her home. A day care with less than five children, including the provider's own children, can operate legally without a license. Under state law, an unlicensed provider who cares for more children than what is allowed can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.

According to court records, no charges have been filed against Anderson regarding her day care.


Owen's parents could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum.
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