A New Ulm couple is facing felony child abuse charges.
Alisha Kay Miller, 39, and Jesse Craig Hedlund, 41, were each charged with four felony counts of 3rd-degree assault – Past Pattern of Child Abuse.
Miller also faces four counts of malicious punishment of a child, four counts of Child Neglect – Knowingly Permitting Abuse, and four counts of child endangerment, gross misdemeanors.
In addition, Hedlund was charged with two felony counts of malicious punishment – one for a child under the age of four, the other for substantial bodily harm. He also faces a felony charge of child neglect and several gross misdemeanor counts of malicious punishment and child neglect.
A criminal complaint says a school resource officer reported to New Ulm Police detectives that a child under the age of ten had arrived at school with bruising on his face for the second time in four days. The complaint says the boy had bruising “in various stages of healing,” red scrapes down his nose, and a scrape with dried blood on his eyebrow.
The boy’s older sister told investigators the children in the home were disciplined with “sentences,” in which they would be assigned 10 pages of writing for the first offense, and 100 pages for the same offense a second time. The girl said she’d once received a 1,000-page sentence for blaming something on her sister.
Another child told detectives the children do not get food or eat late if they are writing sentences.
The complaint says Hedlund and Miller also used a “thinking stick” – a wooden spoon that was broken on the bowl end – to hit the children on their heads. Investigators say the children became terrified or tearful as they talked about the stick.
The complaint details several forms of abuse the children allegedly suffered at the hands of Hedlund and Miller. The children told police of a “new discipline,” for talking back, which was to sit in their rooms with the lights off and soap in their mouths. One child said her soap punishment started at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and lasted 13 hours. She told investigators her mother also hit her three times with the belt because she lied about brushing her teeth.
Hedlund allegedly admitted to making the children write up to 1,000 pages of sentences. The complaint says he also told police the boy had a chunk of soap in his mouth for 12 hours on Saturday and eight hours on Sunday. Hedlund told investigators his intentions were good, but “it’s gone too far,” says the complaint.
Miller told police the boy victim “bruises extremely easily,” and admitted to spankings with the wooden spoon and belt.
The children were evaluated at a local emergency room. Court documents say the boy was found to have “extensive” bruising on his buttocks and legs consistent with severe physical child abuse. Police noted that people who came into contact with the child found his appearance shocking and disturbing.
Another child also revealed bruising on the back of her legs. A 2-year-old child also presented with a bruise on her hairline, according to the complaint.
Hedlund and Miller were arrested, but released on bail. The court ordered that they are to have no unsupervised or unauthorized contact with any children, their own or otherwise.