The more I learn about a West Fargo child abuse case...
- The more upset I get. Two weeks ago, I wrote a little about the case of Aaron Kempfer, who beat up his 3-month-old son. Kempfer's beatings caused the baby to suffer a fractured arm, fractured ribs, and two bruised eyes. I was and remain outraged that Kempfer only received a five-month jail sentence, even though he could have received 10 years.
Before writing that column, I read The Forum story about the case and spoke to prosecuting attorney Reid Brady.
Since then, I have read many of the court documents and had a lengthy meeting with the baby's mother, Amy Kempfer. Amy is a highly-educated medical professional, and is now divorced from Aaron. She showed me the disturbing pictures of her baby son with the black bruise marks around his eyes and the cast on his arm. The more I found out, the more I realized the injustice taking place.
It turns out that this was not a one-time case of a father snapping. At his guilty plea hearing, Aaron admitted to abusing the boy on multiple occasions, according to a transcript of the proceedings.
Aaron's five month jail sentence turned into a mere 12 days. The rest of the time he was shamefully just on electronic home monitoring. So, he lived at home, while going to work and elsewhere.
"I think he should have sat in jail because he needed to think about what he did and be punished for it," Amy said. She's right. After the abuse, the baby stopped eating and he's afraid of men. He cries when men approach him.
Amy's son was diagnosed with traumatic disorder, and she wanted Aaron to be prohibited from seeing his son for five years. The baby's pediatrician and mental health therapist wrote to the court asking for the five year no contact order. "I would recommend that ***** (baby's name) have the next years to heal, gain the skills he needs to talk through visitation and process his feelings prior to having to interact with his abuser," the mental health therapist wrote.
"It is extremely important that ***** be protected from any further traumatic events," the pediatrician wrote.
The letters were disgracefully ignored. Aaron is allowed supervised visitation for one year, and then unsupervised visitation after that.
"It's scary. I'm afraid for the safety of my son," Amy said. "I feel let down by all the people that are supposed to protect children."
Prosecutor Brady did the best he could, but clearly Judges Steven Marquart and Steve McCullough, along with social services workers, dropped the ball in this case. There needs to be tougher sentences, with mandatory minimum imprisonments and noncontact orders in North Dakota. The Legislature must pass laws that mandate that. Child abuse victims and their families need to be better protected by the system, not suffer more.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. He can be heard Fridays, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., on 970 WDAY AM radio. Email firstname.lastname@example.org