Neglect Charges in Child's Death

Seth Johnson

Minneapolis – A Minnesota couple, Sarah and Timothy Johnson, face child neglect charges following the March 2015 death of their son, Seth, whom officials say died of pancreatitis without medical attention because his parents had “issues going to doctors”. Their 7-year-old son was covered in bruises and pressure lesions when he was found “unresponsive on his mattress and covered in vomit” by emergency responders. An autopsy showed the child’s cause of death was acute pancreatitis and possible sepsis.

The parents told authorities that they had noticed change in the boy’s behavior in the weeks before his death. Seth was having troubles with sleeping, eating -- “meals would take a couple of hours” -- and he was throwing himself down the stairs. Timothy and Sarah said they didn’t take their ill son to the hospital because they were concerned doctors would put the child on medications. Instead taking Seth to the hospital, the parents treated the child themselves because they believed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a brain injury and fetal alcohol syndrome, although the clinic they referred authorities to had no record of this, the criminal complaint states. The Johnsons increased the boy’s vitamin intake, treating his wounds with Neosporin and medical honey.

A few days before Seth’s death, his parents were out of town for a wedding, while Seth had been left in the care of an older brother. When they came home they found their son hardly moving and said he didn’t react when they “prayed for his health.” They decided to consider in the morning whether or not their son needed to see a doctor. When the parents woke up, they found Seth unresponsive and called 911 but it was too late because the boy was pronounced dead a short time later.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman released a statement explaining the neglect charge is the most serious he could file because “the medical examiner could not make the link between the cause of death and the actions of the parents.”

“The Johnsons, of course, are presumed innocent,” concluded Freeman. “But we are going to use all of our resources to prove them guilty of neglect of a child resulting in substantial physical harm and ask for the strongest penalty allowed under the statute and sentencing guidelines.”

The Johnsons have not been arrested. They are due in court on January 31. If convicted, they face a maximum of one year behind bars and a $3,000 fine.

Anyone who thinks this possible sentence isn’t enough in this case can sign a petition to seek justice for Seth using this link.

Photo Credits: Moral Low Ground

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