Champlin foster mother convicted of abusing infant

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Champlin mother will be sentenced in May after a Hennepin County District Court Jury convicted her of third-degree assault for injuring her foster son, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.

Melissa Sondrol, 40, was found guilty following a nine-day trial and one-and-a-half days of deliberation, which ended Thursday Mar. 21. The jury also agreed that there were five aggravating factors in the case; the victim was an infant, that Sondrol was a foster parent, that she was the primary caregiver, that she waited to seek medical attention for the boy and when she did, she withheld information from the doctors and nurses.

With those findings, the judge may sentence her to a tougher penalty than the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines recommend. She will be sentenced May 28.

According to the criminal complaint and the trial testimony, Sondrol brought the seven-week-old boy to the hospital on Oct. 5, 2017, claiming he was not moving his right leg normally. A new fracture of the infant’s right femur was discovered in the X-rays. Those same X-rays also revealed older fractures of a bone in the right foot and left tibia as well as 10 fractures of the baby’s ribs.

Sondrol said she noticed a problem with the right leg on Oct. 3 but only made a doctor’s appointment with the child’s pediatrician for two days later. The jury found that she knew she had hurt the child but delayed seeking medical care. She also did not tell police investigators, or the doctors, that she heard a “pop” or a “crack” sound from the child’s leg on Oct. 3 until after her two older children were interviewed and they mentioned overhearing her tell her husband. When confronted by investigators about her children’s statements, Sondrol admitted she had withheld that information out of fear.

Sondrol testified in the trial and said she had not mistreated the child. Instead, she claimed that he must have had weak, demineralized bones, a claim which was supported by the testimony of a hired, Illinois-based orthopedic surgeon. However, doctors from Children’s Hospital agreed that there was no medical evidence of any genetic or metabolic bone conditions. In addition, the child was placed with a new foster parent later the same day after his fractures were discovered and he has suffered no additional fractures or other injuries since.

The guilty verdict was for only the broken femur. The jury acquitted Sondrol of a second count of third-degree assault-past pattern of child abuse, which would have covered the other injuries, but required proving two separate prior abuse incidents.

An assistant Hennepin County Attorney filed a petition to terminate Sondrol’s parental rights to her five children in October 2017. A judge ordered the children to remain in the family home under the care of their father, but Sondrol could not live in the home. A judge allowed her to move back in February 2018 and a pre-trial hearing is set for April 9 on the termination petition.