Less than five months after pleading no contest to substantial battery to a child in St. Croix County, a 27-year-old man was charged with a similar crime in Minnesota.
Washington County prosecutors allege Jonathon D. Wierstad assaulted a 16-month-old boy who was placed on life support after a May 11 incident in Willernie, Minn. Siv Yurichuk, an assistant Washington County attorney, said Thursday there have been “no significant changes” since the child was hospitalized.
Wierstad made his initial court appearance May 15 in Washington County on one count of first-degree assault with great bodily harm. Washington County District Court Judge Gregory Galler ordered him to post either $300,000 bail with conditions or unconditional $600,000 bail.
The May 11 incident occurred while Wierstad was serving a one-year probationary term after being convicted Jan. 20 of felony substantial battery in St. Croix County. In addition to probation, Wierstad was sentenced to six days of time served in jail.
St. Croix County District Attorney Michael Nieskes said probationary terms didn’t bar Wierstad from being in contact with minors.
St. Croix County prosecutors charged Wierstad in April 2014 after an incident at his former Hudson home, where he reported a 3-year-old child had been injured. The child sustained a brain bleed that medical officials said was consistent with child abuse. The boy, who doctors didn’t expect to live at first, survived the episode — but with long-term effects, Nieskes said.
According to a criminal complaint, Wierstad at first told police the boy, his then-girlfriend’s son, had fallen in the bathroom while he and the boy were left alone with each other.
In a second interview with police — during which he was confronted with doctors’ suspicions that the injuries were from abuse — Wierstad changed his story. In that account, he told police he was throwing the boy in the air when he accidentally dropped him prior to the boy falling in the bathroom.
Details in the most recent complaint filed against Wierstad bear similarities.
According to the Washington County complaint:
Washington County deputies were sent May 11 to Wierstad’s home for a report of an unresponsive 16-month-old child. The child was taken to Gillette Children’s Hospital for emergency brain surgery.
The surgeon concluded the boy “would suffer permanent injuries at the very least and could possibly die from the injury,” the complaint states.
Investigators learned Wierstad had been left alone with the victim and two other small children while his fiancee was picking up another child. The injured child was his fiancee’s son, but Wierstad was not the father.
The other two children at the home at the time of the incident were referred to in the complaint as “day care children,” ages 3 and 5. Yurichuk clarified that those children were being effectively babysat there and weren’t part of any licensed day care operation at the house.
Wierstad told officers he went down a flight of stairs and forgot to close a baby gate. He said he then heard a thud and saw the child at the bottom of the stairs.
The surgeon who operated on the child said the injuries weren’t consistent with a fall down stairs. The injury “is more akin to the type of head injury a child would suffer in a high velocity car accident without restraints or severe shaking,” the complaint states.
The 2014 complaint also states that child’s injuries were more consistent with a high-speed auto crash.
Wierstad returns to court May 25 in Washington County.