Justice for baby Henry has finally been reached.
Last week, 36-year-old Kellie Jo Anderson of Barnesville, Minnesota received the expected sentence of 35 years in prison after accepting a plea agreement in May. Per the agreement, Kellie pleaded guilty on May 3, 2021 to a second-degree felony murder charge, essentially admitting to the “vicious, animalistic attack” that led to the unintended death of her 18-month-old foster son, Henry Thomas Anderson, who was a biological family member of Kellie’s husband, Kyle Anderson. Due to the agreement, Kellie’s original charge of second-degree murder stating she killed Henry with intent was dismissed.
Kellie is expected, under Minnesota law, to serve about two thirds of her sentence in prison and the rest on supervised release, meaning she will likely remain behind bars for approximately 23 years. Once she is released from prison, she will be nearly 60 years old.
At the sentencing hearing on June 18, 2021, multiple members of Henry’s family read victim impact statements before the court. Henry’s grandma, Kayla Anderson, told Clay County District Court Judge Jade Rosenfeldt that she visited Henry in the hospital after the attack that killed him, and she addressed other family members in the courtroom when she told them, “Every single one of you gave him a kiss that day in his hospital bed… Our hearts ache. Day after day, they ache.”
Henry’s cousin, Sarah Lohse, gave a victim impact statement for herself and read statements on behalf of other relatives, as well. She, like multiple others in the courtroom, wore a blue “Justice for Baby Henry” t-shirt. “I still feel guilty,” Sarah tearfully told the court, saying she felt guilt for several reasons, including not trying harder to become Henry’s permanent caregiver, for not seeing through Kellie’s “fake shell,” and for, in her eyes, letting Henry down. She said she has tried therapy to reduce the guilt she feels.
The family thought Kyle and Kellie, who also share a young biological daughter, were the best choice to provide Henry’s forever home after he was given up by his birth mother after he was born with methamphetamine in his system. The couple had reportedly intended to adopt Henry last summer until Kellie beat him to death.
Kellie Jo Anderson read from her own prepared statement, although much of it was garbled and indecipherable. One phrase was heard clearly, however: “I am very sorry.”
While handing down Kellie’s sentence, Judge Rosenfeldt said the attack on baby Henry “can only be described as heinous.” She said Kellie’s 35 year sentence was significantly higher than state sentencing guidelines would dictate, which was only allowable due to the severe aggravating factors of Henry’s murder.
On April 24, 2020, Kellie carried Henry’s body, “blue and lifeless with bruising to the face and head,” into the emergency room of the Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, North Dakota, a forty-minute drive from the family’s home in Barnesville, Minnesota. According to Clay County Chief Assistant Attorney Pamela Foss, Henry had been dead for approximately forty minutes by the time he arrived at the hospital. The prosecutor also stated that Henry had suffered bruises on literally every part of his body, calling Kellie’s assault on the baby a “vicious, animalistic attack.”
Henry had suffered multiple horrific injuries, including broken ribs, a jaw fracture, massive internal bleeding, and injuries to his genitals, which a doctor compared to the injuries a person would incur in a severe vehicular accident.
Court documents state that Kellie stopped at a McDonald’s restaurant near the hospital to check on Henry, where a witness, who saw blood on the baby’s face, told her to take him to the emergency room rather than commence chest compressions on her own.
Kellie is a registered nurse who worked in hospice care. She told investigators she did not call 911 because she would only do so if someone was unconscious or unresponsive, which she apparently claimed Henry was not when they set out for the hospital.
Kellie initially tried to pass Henry’s injuries off as self-inflicted, saying he threw himself several times from the bathtub to the toilet, but that didn’t get her very far. Even her husband told investigators that Henry had no history of self-injurious behavior. She was quickly arrested and extradited back to Minnesota to face the second-degree murder charge, on which prosecutors had requested an aggravated sentence due to the “particular cruelty” of Henry’s treatment by his foster mother. The standard sentence would be between 21 ¾ years and 30 ½ years due to Kellie’s lack of a criminal history, but with the aggravated sentence, she faced a sentence of 40 years in prison.
During her plea hearing on May 3, Kellie wept as she recounted her attack on the helpless toddler. She said that morning, she kept Henry home from day care because he was running a fever, although she couldn’t recall the exact sequence of events due to medication she was taking at the time that clouded her recollection.
Kellie told the judge she remembered noticing Henry had cut his mouth during his bath, and she was frustrated that she couldn’t stop the bleeding. She then hit him several times. “I don’t know exactly why I did what I did. I don’t know why I reacted like that.”
She admitted to the court that Henry was not breathing when she drove him to the hospital in Fargo; she performed CPR on the baby before loading him into the vehicle.
Prosecutor Pamela Lee Foss said at the sentencing hearing that Kellie tried to minimize her culpability in Henry’s death by claiming she was under the influence of drugs at the time but that there is no evidence to support her excuse. She also said it was believed Henry was dead before Kellie loaded him into her vehicle and drove him 40 minutes to an emergency room in Fargo, North Dakota; Ms. Foss told the judge it was a miracle that hospital staff was able to revive Henry briefly when he arrived at the hospital.
Kellie, who had been incarcerated at the Clay County Jail since the time of her arrest, was transferred this week to the women’s correctional facility in Shakopee, Minnesota.
Also, in other news related to Henry’s story:
On a sad note, Henry’s teenage sister, who I’ll call “H.”, has endured yet another tragedy. In mid-April, her father, Mike, unexpectedly passed away due to reasons that have not been disclosed. This poor girl has endured more tragedy in one year than most people could ever contemplate, and my heart is broken for her. I hope at the very least that Kellie’s sentencing can help her find peace and healing in some way.
Henry’s cousin, Sarah Lohse, created a Facebook page called 50 States for Baby Henry #justiceforbabyhenry, where she sold the “Justice for Baby Henry” t-shirts multiple family members wore to Kellie’s sentencing hearing. The reason for the t-shirt sales was two-fold. For one thing, Sarah’s aim was to garner support for Henry in all 50 states, and on the Facebook page, photos abound of supporters from all over the country wearing their baby Henry t-shirts. The second reason is because the proceeds earned through t-shirt sales were being collected as part of a fundraiser to pay for toddler playground equipment in Henry’s name.
Once adequate funds were raised, members of Henry’s family set to work building and placing the toddler equipment in a playground in Wendell, Minnesota.
What a fitting tribute to such a precious, beautiful little boy!
Click here for my previous coverage of Henry’s story.
Sources: Inforum, Minnesota Department of Corrections, Facebook, members of Henry’s family