One year ago today, then-35-year-old Kellie Jo Anderson of Barnesville, Minnesota burst into the emergency department at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, North Dakota with her 18-month-old foster son, Henry Thomas Anderson, in her arms.
A criminal complaint later described Henry as “blue and lifeless with bruising to the face and head.”
By the time Henry arrived at the emergency room, doctors said, his core body temperature was 82 degrees, indicating he had probably been dead approximately 40 minutes already. Coincidentally or not, 40 minutes is the exact length of time it should take someone to drive from the Andersons’ home to Sanford Medical Center.
Kellie told hospital staff that Henry “threw himself several times from the bath to the toilet,” injuring his mouth. She also claimed he suffered a seizure. Despite Kellie’s attempts to explain away Henry’s injuries as being self-inflicted, medical staff saw through her excuses and contacted police.
Kellie’s husband, Kyle, a biological family member of Henry’s, was initially doubtful that his wife could have injured Henry, but after seeing the toddler’s condition not long before Henry was pronounced dead at 6:42 AM on Friday, April 24, 2020, Kyle told investigators he couldn’t believe the injuries were self-inflicted. He also said his foster son had no history of self-injuring to his knowledge. However, he said, Henry was accident-prone, and he tended to twist around while being bathed.
Henry was born with methamphetamine in his system, and Kyle and his wife became foster parents for the specific purpose of taking Henry into their home. They had planned to adopt him officially in the summer of 2020.
A preliminary autopsy report determined that Henry’s probable cause of death was asphyxiation associated with blunt force trauma, revealing a multitude of internal and external injuries the baby had suffered, including a jaw fracture, broken ribs, and massive internal bleeding. He had endured injuries to his head, face, arms, chest, back, legs, hand, foot, and penis, as well. The medical examiner found no evidence that Henry had suffered a seizure prior to his death.
Less than a week after Henry’s death, Kellie Jo Anderson was arrested in North Dakota on a charge of felony criminal neglect. On Monday, April 27, 2020, an official felony charge of second-degree murder with intent was filed against Kellie in Clay County District Court. The following day, she was extradited to Minnesota and booked into the Clay County Jail, where she has remained since her arrest on a bond of $1 million.
Kellie’s trial is scheduled for May 10, 2021.
Her murder charge carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison, but because Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines are based on a grid that takes criminal history into consideration, Kellie, who has no criminal history, would normally be sentenced to prison time for a term of 261 to 367 months.
Earlier this month, however, Clay County prosecutors filed a motion for aggravated sentencing, alleging in the motion that Henry died from a “vicious, animalistic assault” by his foster mother. A hearing was held on the motion via videoconference on Monday, April 12, 2021, which Kellie attended remotely from jail.
In the motion, prosecutors alleged, “Based on the nature of these injuries, it can be inferred that Henry experienced agonizing pain during the entirety of the beatdown inflicted by [Anderson].”
Kellie told investigators that Henry’s breathing was labored on the drive to the hospital, although the fact that he had been dead for approximately 40 minutes prior to arrival seems to belie that statement. She said she stopped in a McDonald’s parking lot near the hospital, noticed Henry was not breathing and had no pulse, and planned to administer CPR until a witness told her to go to the hospital instead.
The motion filing stated that the same witness noticed blood on Henry’s face and believed the baby had been struck by something.
According to the medical examiner, Henry’s death by asphyxiation may have been caused by someone placing their hands over his mouth. The filing also stated that the medical examiner expressed “extreme” concern about the injuries to Henry’s genital area and opined that Henry’s injuries were less consistent with self-harm and more consistent with physical abuse. The medical examiner also said Henry may have experienced emotional abuse from Kellie.
Also in the filing, it was revealed that a day care provider, family members of Kellie, and members of Henry’s biological family had previously seen bruises and bumps on the baby, but they didn’t stand out, mainly because Kellie had explanations for all of them. These witnesses were, however, concerned about a broken leg Henry had suffered and a startling incident that took place a few weeks before he died.
The motion filing revealed that Henry was airlifted to a hospital in late March or early April of 2020 after he nearly suffocated on a wet wipe that somehow became lodged in his throat.
Prosecutors allege Kellie deprived Henry of emergency care by failing to call an ambulance. Kellie was a nurse at the time of Henry’s death and told investigators she would only call 911 if someone was unconscious or not responding.
According to the motion filing, “These facts all suggest that the defendant utterly failed to seek potentially life-saving medical care for Henry after she had inflicted the savage beating.”
Judge Jade Rosenfeldt gave Kellie’s defense attorney, Daniel Hopper, until April 22 to submit a response to the aggravated sentencing motion, which would increase her sentence should she be convicted. Hopper intends to use voluntary intoxication as his client’s defense.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Henry’s story.