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120 days: Mother of infants in homicide investigation sentenced in child endangerment case

Kelly Anderson-Person, 35, of Hendricks, formerly of Clarkfield, is in jail to being serving her sentence on charges of child endangerment and violating a no contact order.

GRANITE FALLS — A woman under investigation in Lincoln County for the homicide deaths of two of her infant children began serving a jail term Tuesday in Yellow Medicine County after pleading guilty in District Court to child endangerment and violation of a no-contact order.

Kelly Anderson-Person, 35, of Hendricks, formerly of Clarkfield, was immediately taken into custody after District Judge Dwayne Knutsen rejected defense requests to delay the start of the sentence or order a lesser sentence.

Judge Knutsen ordered her to serve consecutive sentences of 90 days and 30 days on the two offenses and serve four years of supervised probation, as well as pay fines and fees. As part of the probation requirements, he ordered that she have no contact with her husband, their child or another child she has with a former husband.

Anderson-Person pleaded guilty Tuesday to a gross misdemeanor count of child endangerment for an August incident at her home in Clarkfield when she pulled a gun while holding her daughter. Two officers from South Dakota were there to question Anderson-Person in the homicide investigation stemming from the 2012 discovery of the remains of two infants — a boy and girl — in a grove of trees near Fish Lake in Deuel County, S.D.

As she spoke with the two South Dakota officers, squad cars pulled up outside her home and Anderson-Person pulled a .38-caliber revolver from under the cushion of the sofa where she sat holding her then nine-month-old daughter.

The officers wrestled the revolver from Anderson-Person and it discharged into the ceiling during the struggle.

The two female officers — one from Brookings, S.D., and the other from Sioux Falls, S.D. — attended Tuesday’s sentencing in Granite Falls to show support for the prosecution. They were not asked to testify.  

Anderson-Person is the biological mother of the two infants, and she told the officers she had given birth in 2009 and 2011 while living in Hendricks in Lincoln County and had disposed of the bodies, according to court documents. South Dakota authorities ruled the deaths homicides after examination of the remains.

Anderson-Person also pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of violating a no-contact order by mailing a Valentine’s Day card to her daughter in care of her father at their Clarkfield residence. The girl lives with her father, and he is currently seeking a divorce from Anderson-Person.

A pre-sentence investigation recommended that Anderson-Person serve 90 days in jail. The city of Clarkfield prosecuted the violation of the no-contact order and had no sought additional jail time.

Defense attorney Daniel Mohs asked for empathy for Anderson-Person, and said that a lengthy jail sentence would not serve any purpose. He told the court that she has documented mental health issues, and that her action with the gun was the result of panic at seeing squad cars pulling up at the home. She believed that officers were violating an agreement to interview her but not take her into custody at the time, he said.

Mohs told the court that Anderson-Person poses no danger to the public or to those she knows.

Anderson-Person told the court that she had completed court-ordered, in-patient mental health care. “I haven’t done anything to be threatening to anyone” since her release, she told the court. She said she was released from care after she proved herself capable of continuing her therapy and treatment on her own.

Assistant Yellow Medicine County Attorney Stacy Vinberg told the court that it was by the grace of the actions of the two South Dakota officers interviewing Anderson-Person that no one was killed. She refuted the defense assertion that the gun was pulled in panic. “She plotted this suicide attempt and planted the gun. There was a grave potential for death at the time,” Vinberg said.  

Vinberg said that Anderson-Person does pose a threat to the public, and that her husband has expressed concern for his safety and that of their child. Vinberg also told the court that a recent order has terminated Anderson-Person’s parental rights to her daughter. In a ruling accompanying that case, a judge found that Anderson-Person was “capable of egregious acts that defy reason when under stress.”  

The gun she pulled from the sofa was a Christmas present from her husband. Vinberg said Anderson-Person had requested the gun as a gift, and that her husband had testified in a separate court proceeding that he was unaware of her mental health issues at the time.  

Vinberg told Judge Knutsen that a South Dakota court is also currently considering a request by a former husband to terminate Anderson-Person’s parental rights to their child.  

Since being charged with child endangerment, Anderson-Person has admitted to two violations of orders placed on her, Vinberg said. Anderson-Person had violated the no-contact order by making efforts to contact her husband and child. She had also admitted to consuming alcohol in violation of the terms of her release pending sentencing.

“There have to be some grave consequences to the criminal acts that she did,” Vinberg said.

Judge Knutsen said he was aware of the “significant and disturbing facts” that were cited in the ruling terminating her parental rights. However, he said he had to limit his sentencing to issues specific to this case.

He pointed to her violations of the no-contact order and of release conditions and expressed concerns about whether she would be amenable to probation. He said there was a need for a “fairly strong re-enforcement of these court orders.”

He also cited what he described as a “lack of honesty or lack of understanding” by Anderson-Person of her situation. The judge said statements by Anderson-Person during the pre-sentence investigation were clearly “inconsistent with the facts as we know them.”

The investigation in Lincoln County remains active, and court officials in Yellow Medicine County were not aware of any charges having been filed as of Tuesday.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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