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Minnesota daycare provider found guilty; child suffered brain damage

EAGAN, Minn. -- An Eagan daycare provider has been found guilty of seriously injuring a 13-month-old boy who has permanent brain damage.

A Dakota County jury deliberated for about five hours Thursday before convicting Mariel Alexandra Grimm, 33, of first-degree assault for injuring the boy Sept. 22 at her house.

Grimm, who was  charged with the crime March 29, faces up to 20 years in prison; sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 29 in Hastings.

“We are pleased to have brought Mariel Grimm to justice for this serious crime,” Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom said in a statement Friday. “Our thoughts are extended to the baby’s parents and family for his ongoing care.”

Grimm’s attorney Marc Kurzman said afterward that he was “stunned” by the verdict and that his client will appeal the decision.

Kurzman argued during the 10-day trial that Grimm did not harm the boy. He said the child’s mother told police that he had fallen in his home the day before the injuries were discovered.

“I had a doctor testify who has only testified before for the prosecution who said this was not shaken baby and he explained it in detail to the jury,”  Kurzman said. “Yet, the jury did what the jury did. I’m blown away.”

A Gillette child-abuse pediatrician who examined the infant said the brain injury was consistent with abusive head trauma, which could not have been caused by a short fall or injury inflicted by another child,  according to the March 29 complaint.

The pediatrician testified during the trial that the subdural hemorrhage injury is the type of trauma associated with a violent acceleration-deceleration event, such as a high-speed motor vehicle collision or being severely shaken or thrown, according to the county attorney’s office.

According to the criminal complaint:

Grimm called 911 about 1 p.m. Sept. 22 to say that an infant in her care was unresponsive. When police and medics arrived, she was holding the child, who had a pulse but was taking shallow breaths.

The child was taken to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, where he was diagnosed with massive subdural hemorrhage, or bleeding around the brain, and underwent surgery to relieve the pressure.

The child’s mother told police she had left her son at Grimm’s house about 7:15 a.m. that day and that neither she nor her husband had noticed anything wrong with him.

Grimm told investigators that the child woke up crying from a nap and became “stiff” then unresponsive when she was changing his diaper. She said she “tapped the sides of his face to get him to wake up, and when that didn’t work, she brought him into the bathroom and began splashing cold water on his face,” the complaint reads.

Grimm then called the child’s mother, who told her to hang up and call 911.

In a follow-up interview with police, Grimm said that before the infant’s nap, he had been playing with some toys on the floor and seemed fine.

Grimm said she was the only adult in the home that morning, and that none of the other children appeared to have unsupervised contact with the infant.

The neurosurgeon who performed the emergency surgery concluded that the child would have become unresponsive immediately or shortly after this head trauma occurred.

Grimm has never had a child-care license in Minnesota, according to the state Department of Human Services. A license is not required if care is provided to related children, to one unrelated child, or to children for a cumulative total of less than 30 days in any 12-month period.

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