This is the first time in my memory that a key reporter (Brandon Stahl) from a major newspaper (Star Tribune) has taken the time and energy to thoroughly investigate child abuse.  The greatest sadness in all this may be that a baby must die for the public to care enough to read about it.  As a volunteer guardian ad-Litem and CASAMN board member, I’ve come to know many children that have lived horrific lives and some that have tried to escape by killing themselves (one four year old, and a seven year old foster boy that hung himself and left a note).


Lois Jurgens tortured and killed her three year old adopted son Dennis Jergens over time and in a most brutal fashion.  She was the adoptive mother of six children and she tortured them all over long periods of time.  She was eventually convicted and sentenced for murder – but not before adopting five other children (after Dennis’s was tortured to death).

Prior to the adoption of Dennis, Lois had been hospitalized three times for mental illness and there were Mayo Clinic psychiatrist records strongly recommending against Lois becoming an adoptive parent because she was a potential paranoid schizophrenic.

She had been turned down by a number of Catholic adoption agencies, but Ramsey County (like many counties) was having trouble finding adoptive homes for abandoned and abused children.  Within a year of the adoption, Dennis was admitted to the Ramsey County hospital with burns on his penis and bruises all over his two year old body.

Five years after Dennis’ death, Lois and her husband moved to Kentucky and adopted five more children (states still don’t share information in many cases).

Brandon Stahl has written clearly and accurately about four year old Eric Dean’s short tortured life and the institutional failures that lead to his death.  How fifteen reports were made to the under–trained/understaffed/under-resourced county workers ignored all of them.

There will be blaming and hand-wringing by the county administrators until this story goes away, and then we can expect a long silence until the next horrific and completely avoidable child death occurs in our state.

There are four counties in MN that screen out 90% of child abuse cases and the rest of the state screens out 71%.

In my own child protection volunteer work, the state of Wisconsin had a court order forbidding a man to be around young boys because of what he did to them.

This man had spent 2/3 of his adult life in prison for crimes he had committed upon young boys when he was given custody of his four year old son.  That boy, his son, was tied to a bed and left alone for days at a time without food or water, sexually abused, and beaten from head to toe.  When I met this boy, his whole body was covered with bruises (he was seven years old).

This boy’s four year, tortured, near death experience was the direct result of a county not having the most simple safeguards in place.

The court order was a public document, the prison record for crimes against children were available in any background check – how much more blatant could this oversight have been?

I have come to believe that the fault lies in our aversion to the topic and the absence of discussion about child abuse that has made it so prolific in our nation.  Six million children are now reported annually in this nation and very few of those reports are responded to and fewer still are tracked and monitored.

There is very little difference in the circumstances that killed Dennis Jergens, and the circumstances that almost killed my guardian ad-Litem case child, and now, those circumstances have killed Eric Dean.

The horror of abusive child death are the sign of a damaged social safety net.  If our young and most vulnerable can’t be looked after, we are surely a misguided community.

We also know that the long lasting results of child abuse will fill our prisons, damage out education system, and have made life unsafe and unhappy in many of our communities.


Thank you Brandon Stahl for your excellent work.  Please continue until a few more of us wake up to help these children from our institutional neglect and put in place safeguards that will improve the lives of abused and neglected children.

Support KARA’s TPT documentary project to make life better for abused and neglected children

Pope County Child Protection receives two maltreatment complaints about Eric. Both allege that Kemp’s new boyfriend assaulted her while the children were in the home, and that Eric is sleeping in a room that cannot be opened from the inside. The county conducts a family assessment and offers services to Kemp and her boyfriend, which they accept.
Pope County gets a third maltreatment report about Eric. The county “screens out,” or declines to follow up on the report, saying the allegation did not meet the maltreatment criteria for a response.
Pope County gets a fourth maltreatment report about Eric. The county screens out the report, saying there was not enough identifying information for a response.
Eric’s older brother accuses Kemp’s boyfriend of choking him. David Dean and his new girlfriend, Amanda Peltier, take custody of the kids. They move into a Starbuck apartment.
Pope County gets its fifth and sixth maltreatment reports about Eric. Both are screened out, with the county saying they did not meet the maltreatment criteria for a response.
Peltier takes Eric to a hospital, which makes a report to child protection that he broke his arm in a manner often indicative of child abuse. Pope County investigates. Peltier denies harming Eric, saying he fell down the stairs while she was doing laundry. A child abuse expert reviews the case, but is not given Eric’s prior maltreatment reports. The doctor says that the fracture could have resulted from a fall down the stairs.
Two maltreatment reports are filed about Eric, including one from his day care teacher, Heather Hopper. She says the boy had multiple bite marks on his cheek and ears, and bruises and scratches on his body. The county screens out the report.Brandi Knight
Eric’s toddler room teacher at Kingdom Kids day care
Hopper files another report with child protection, the 10th. Hopper said Eric had an egg-sized lump on his head with puncture wounds around it. He initially told Hopper that his brother was responsible for the injuries, then later told her Peltier was responsible. The county screens out the report.
Jan. 24
Pope County gets its 11th and 12th child maltreatment reports about Eric. One is from his special education teacher, Mindy DeGeer, who sees bruises and bite marks on Eric. Eric tells DeGeer he bit himself. Eric’s new day care provider, Colleen Myslicki, also sees the injuries. Eric tells her “Mommy” was responsible. The county opens a family assessment case for Dean and Peltier.Mindy DeGeer
Reported bite marks, bruising in Jan. 2012
Feb. 3
Myslicki reports to Pope County that Eric’s right ear was bruised and red and he had a swollen red lip. In the report, she tells the county that Eric told her “he got hurt.” The county screens out the report, saying the allegation does not meet the maltreatment criteria for a response.
March 12
Myslicki sends another report to Pope County, documenting several days in which Eric came to day care with visible injuries, including fat lips, bleeding ears, and black eyes. Pope County conducts a family assessment. Peltier and Dean deny physically punishing their children. The county closes the case.
Aug. 2
Myslicki sends another report to Pope County, the 15th about Eric since March 2010. Myslicki tells the county that Peltier slapped Eric out of her hands and screamed obscenities at him. Myslicki said the county told her that if she had further concerns about Eric, she should report them to her day care licenser.Colleen Myslicki
Eric’s day-care provider who filed several abuse reports
Peltier pulls Eric out of Myslicki’s day care.
Feb. 26
Peltier slaps 4-year-old Eric across the face, spanks him, bites him and throws him across a room of their Starbuck home. A perforation in his small intestine leaks enzymes into his body. Over the next two days he vomits repeatedly and complains of pain.
Feb. 27
Eric chokes on his own vomit and stops breathing. His parents call 911. He’s taken by ambulance to a Glenwood hospital, and then airlifted to St. Cloud.
Feb. 28
Eric is pronounced dead. A medical examiner identifies numerous injuries to Eric’s body and labels the death a homicide. A Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator interviews Peltier, who denies abusing Eric.
Mar. 5
Peltier admits to BCA agents that she repeatedly bit Eric, pulled on his ears and grabbed him by the arm and tossed him, including the morning of Feb. 26. 
July 24
Peltier is charged with second-degree murder.
Nov. 14
A grand jury indicts Peltier on first-degree murder charges.
May 28
Peltier is convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, with a possibility of parole in 30 years.Julie Olivier
Eric’s maternal grandmother
Aug. 7
Pope County releases the mortality review on Eric’s case, designed to examine what went wrong, and where the county could improve. The review had two recommendations: first, to communicate “as needed” with law enforcement when abuse reports are screened out, and second, to change state law about reviewing child-protection history when screening an abuse report. The law already gives agencies that authority, though the state Department of Human Services recommends against using it.










  1. ***did not meet the maltreatment criteria for a response***


    Also Social Workers in ____ COUNTY MN wont call you to let you know, you have to hunt them down to get a response.. WHEN you ask .. WELL what the heck is that criterea?? because these children have been hurt physically, mentally, not taken to school, left with a black eye, parents have no house, no car, school teacher has raised concerns, mom has mental issues other stuff… and all they say is OHH DIDNT MEET THE CRITERIA… and they can even tell you what that criteria is…

    also I was told by a MN ____ county, judge, attorney, social worker and guardian ad litem that sadly for the kids the law is not preventive but reactionary…. to which i said. so i just have to wait for them to die.. or get seriously hurt for someone to do something? and they say YEAH… BASICALLY… with that stupid dumb powerless look in their face!

  2. Ellien, it’s easy to blame the people doing the work, but the blame lies at the top… legislators skimping on services and funding for children in need of protection.

    People do not understand the depth and scope of these problems. Overworked and undersupported, social workers quit after a few years because of it. No one wins if the only time they are recognized is when a child dies and they are blamed for it.

    We all need to speak out more and thank the Star Tribune and Brandon Stahl for the diligent efforts of finding and reporting the lack of transparency and bad politics that is causing so many children to fall through these cracks.

    Thank you for your comment – I too know how frustrating our institutions are for everyone involved.

    ps… please forgive me for blanking out the county. There were 4 counties in this state last year that screened out 90% of child abuse calls (because they lack awareness and resources to deal with abused and neglected children).

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