Probation for day care provider who hung child, ran over bicyclist, pedestrian

Tuesday,

A Hennepin County District Court Judge placed day care provider Nataliia Karia on probation for 10 years for attempting to kill a baby and then hitting and severely injuring two men and a woman with her van.

Judge Jay Quam handed down the sentence late Monday afternoon following three days of hearings since Karia, 43, pleaded guilty in February to attempted murder, third-degree assault and two counts of criminal vehicular operation. If she violates the conditions of her probation, she could be sent to prison for 183 months. In addition, Judge Quam ordered her to work with her psychiatric doctor and to be confined to her adult son’s home on electronic home monitoring for at least two months. He also ordered Karia not to have any unsupervised contact with minors.

She can leave the home only for medical appointments and any court appearances involving her parental rights to her daughters who are now 10, 7 and 2, Judge Quam said. She is not to work at all for the next two months and never again do child care.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Christina Warren argued that Karia should be given the sentence recommended by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines of 153 months in the women’s prison in Shakopee. Warren pointed out that Karia waived any mental illness defense and, instead, admitted she acted with intent to kill the 16-month-old boy in her care. In addition, Karia recklessly drove her minivan injuring three others.

“This does not mean we don’t have compassion for the defendant’s mental illness,” Warren told the judge. “There are often commonalities in the defendants. There may be mental illness, physical abuse, chemical abuse. Necessarily, we look at a defendant’s history. But the presence of mental illness is not justification, alone, to vary from the sentencing guidelines.”
 
Family members and some day care parents had testified in the earlier hearings before Judge Quam that they did not see this coming because she did not present any severe symptoms, Warren said. But for the heroic actions of a day care father, who found the baby hanging from a noose in Karia’s basement and took him down, this could have been a murder.

Several victims who were injured as a result of Karia’s reckless driving gave impact statements at a hearing in May. A young woman, whose car was rear-ended by Karia forcing her car to smash the car in front of her, told the court that her life was forever changed by the accident. She feared the driver in the car in front of her had been killed by the tremendous impact and she still has frequent traumatic flashbacks. A year-and-a half later, she remain in rehab and could possibly face surgery for her physical injuries.

That driver in front of her survived and came back to check on the woman, only to be hit and dragged under the minivan for several blocks. He told Judge Quam that he used to work two restaurant jobs and coach soccer, but one of his feet was so badly damaged that he has lost those jobs and can only work three or four hours a day. He can run only for three minutes so he can no longer coach his children's soccer teams. 

The cyclist who was hit by Karia said he was depressed and felt isolated after she collided with him and couldn’t work for nearly four months. He took it upon himself to learn about restorative justice and asked how Karia would heal if she was sent to prison.

The women’s prison in Shakopee is the best place to protect Karia’s three young daughters from danger if Karia were to commit another act of violence and it is a good place for her to get treatment. Not only would there not be the stresses of financial problems, her family relationships and raising her children, but she would have stable housing, daily psychological therapy and someone making sure she took her medications, Warren said.

Karia’s attorney said that she had been doing daycare in her south Minneapolis home for a decade and “this incident was wildly outside her care giving.” He also blamed Karia’s then 63-year-old husband for her mental problems, saying he used physical force, verbal abuse and withholding of affection against her.

When it was her turn to speak, with the help of an interpreter, Karia she asked for forgiveness from the people she struck with her minivan. She also asked for forgiveness from the mothers of the 16-month-old boy.

“I apologize and I don’t know if I would be able to forgive,” Karia said. “I don’t know if I could forgive someone who did that to my son.”

She then detailed how she met her husband in Ukraine through an agency in Kiev because he was looking for a wife. She was divorced and had a seven-year-old son. They quickly married and he brought her to the United States. She said she thought many times of returning to Ukraine, but her son stopped her because he liked his school, his friends and America.

Karia detailed the abuse she said she suffered from her husband and the mounting debts they were experiencing. After giving birth to her daughter in Oct. 2015, she was not sleeping and it led to the crimes of Nov. 18, 2016, she said.

“I don’t want to put this terrible criminal charge onto my husband,” Karia said. “I just want to explain what happened.”

Judge Quam said “this is one of the hardest cases I’ve ever had,” He concluded she was suffering extreme mental illness at the time, though she understood the consequences of her actions.

Karia was given credit for the 20 months she already has spent in jail.