Couple accused of starving adopted son

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS  — A Minnesota couple are accused of starving their 8-year-old adopted son, feeding him only liquid and putting an alarm on his door so he would not steal food, according to criminal charges that said the boy was so malnourished his bones protruded and he weighed as much as a child half his age.

Mona Hauer and Russell Hauer of North Mankato each are charged with six felonies, including neglect and malicious punishment of a child. In addition to starving the boy, authorities said, they beat him with a broom handle and made him sleep in a sled in the basement because he wet the bed.

Online court records did not say whether the Hauers, who also have a biological child and adopted two of the boy’s siblings, have an attorney. Multiple calls to the family’s home went unanswered Monday and the voicemail box was full.

Email newsletter signup

The complaint, filed Friday, said Mona Hauer brought the boy to Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Mankato on Oct. 9 because she thought he had vomited blood. She said the boy had eating issues and had been regurgitating his food for months.

He weighed just 34.8 pounds and was 3 feet, 5 inches tall — about the weight of an average 4-year-old when measured on standard growth charts. The complaint said the boy was “very thin, his bones were protruding, and his abdomen was distended.”

He was transferred to Rochester and found to have a slow heartbeat, anemia, brain atrophy and delayed bone growth due to malnutrition, the complaint said. He remained hospitalized Friday and was on a diet to increase his weight. The hospital would not release his status Monday.

Nicollet County Social Services officials would not comment on the case, or say whether the other children remained in the home. Le Sueur County Human Services, which handled social services in this case, referred questions to the Nicollet County attorney, who was in court and did not return a message seeking additional details Monday.

The boy told officials the couple made him sit at the table and drink a liquid diet while the rest of the family ate. He said at times he was so hungry he ate dirty food from a compost site. He told doctors he didn’t brush his teeth and regurgitated his food “because he wanted the taste of food and he did not know when he would eat again,” the complaint said.

Mona Hauer told authorities she and her husband slept outside the boy’s bedroom for up to a year so he would not steal food. Then they moved his room to the basement and put an alarm on his door, the complaint said.

The boy said he was given a bucket to go to the bathroom at night, and had to clean it himself in the morning. One of the other children was responsible for hosing him off two to three times a week with a garden hose, the complaint said.

The other children told authorities the boy was “naughty” and stole food, according to the complaint said.

At the time of the boy’s adoption, a doctor found he had experienced trauma that would require intensive psychotherapy. The doctor gave several recommendations, but the Hauers did not follow through, the complaint said.

Mona Hauer, who home schools all the children, told authorities the family practices what she called “holistic medicine” and only goes to doctors in serious situations. She told authorities she put the boy on a liquid diet after talking with a chiropractor, according to the complaint.

The chiropractor told authorities he hoped the liquid meal would be digested before the boy could regurgitate it, but that he did not intend it to be the boy’s only nourishment.

The complaint said Mona Hauer told authorities the boy’s eating habits were his “attempt to be in control of the home and that (he) had in fact controlled the home for some time.” She also said she didn’t think he was too thin.

Russell Hauer told medical staff that he and his wife withheld food from the boy at least once as a form of punishment, the complaint said. He also told officials the boy “had won or gotten his way” when he was taken to the hospital.