Foster mother pleads guilty in death of three-year-old
A Brooklyn Park woman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of the foster child in the care of her and her husband, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday.
Sherrie Dirk, 34, pleaded guilty Friday morning to second-degree unintentional murder. She will be sentenced on Dec. 3 and the prosecution and defense will argue the length of her sentence, which will be between 25 and 35 years in prison.
During her guilty plea Friday morning, Dirk admitted to some of the specifics of her crime and also admitted to three aggravating factors. Those factors were that the child was particularly vulnerable because of her young age, that Dirk was in a position of authority and, finally, that she left the child alone for several hours and knew she was in a weakened state because of how Dirk had treated her. Those admissions allow the judge to set a higher sentence than the sentencing guidelines would ordinarily recommend.
On Nov. 6, 2017, Brooklyn Park Police officers were called to the Dirks home at 3600 82nd Ave. N. because the three-year-old foster daughter was not breathing. In the early afternoon, Dirk completely immobilized the child by binding the girl with three sheets and left her in a room with the door closed. Neither she, nor her husband Bryce Dirk, checked on the child until Bryce did about four hours later. One of the sheets was found around her neck.
The girl was found to be severely dehydrated and malnourished. Since arriving at the Dirks home in September 2016, the girl had lost weight and gone from the 98th percentile in weight to beneath the 5th percentile just weeks before her death.
The Dirks are parents to four other children and a petition to terminate their parental rights on those children was filed by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in late 2017. While the children were removed from the house almost immediately after the three-year-old’s death, the trial on the petition has been delayed until after the criminal case against the Dirks was complete. That trial is set for next month.
Both Sherrie and Bryce were indicted by a grand jury last year on first-degree murder while committing child abuse and second-degree murder. Had Sherrie Dirk gone to trial on the first-degree murder charge, and if she was found guilty, the automatic penalty would have been life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years.
Bryce Dirk, 33, pleaded guilty to the same second-degree murder charge last month and his sentencing will be Nov. 4. He is expected to receive 150 months in prison.