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Beltrami County District Court: Two charged in baby trauma case

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A Bemidji man and woman were charged Friday in relation to the high-force head trauma of a 7-month-old boy.

Timothy Kenneth Lundberg, 29, was charged with felony first-degree assault causing great bodily harm. Brenda Kala Hertel, 22, was charged with felony neglect or endangerment of a child. Their initial appearance in Beltrami County District Court is scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 19. Meanwhile, they are being held in the Beltrami County Jail.

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According to the criminal complaint:

At 5:08 p.m. Dec. 18, Beltrami County Law Enforcement officers were summoned to the Hertel-Lundberg residence at 5653 Alps Court N.W. on a report of an unresponsive infant.

The baby, Ayven Jayce Shepard, was taken to North Country Regional Hospital emergency room where he was diagnosed by Dr. Beverly Richter as having massive left side head trauma. He was air-lifted to Minneapolis Children's Hospital where he remains. According to www.CaringBridge.org/visit/Ayvenshepard, he remains in a coma and on a feeding tube, but is breathing without a ventilator.

"This is the worst thing that has ever happened to our family," said Kayla Nickerson, Ayden's aunt and spokesperson for the family. "No one can know what it feels like."

The investigator in the case, Brian Ball, was informed by the Minnesota Children's resource Center "if the baby survived, he would be in a vegetative state, and would not interact with his environment."

The complaint continues that the baby's mother, Kristin Shepard, had hired Hertel and Lundberg to care for him and another child from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning Oct. 30. The mother reported that Ayven was happy and healthy when she left him with the caregivers the morning of Dec. 18. Hertel had been out of the home most of the day, returning shortly before 4 p.m. when the baby had already been injured. The mother received a call at 5:07 p.m. from Hertel saying she couldn't wake the baby. Hertel asked if she should call 911, and the mother told her to do that.

A physician at the Minnesota Resource center also evaluated Ayven's condition in relation to physical abuse and reported, "The baby has sustained devastating, life-threatening head trauma, including a large subdural hematoma, a major brain injury. ... These findings are consistent with violent, high force trauma. Injuries this severe have caused the baby to be symptomatic immediately or very shortly thereafter the traumatic event. His overall prognosis remains extremely grave."

Beltrami County Sheriff's investigators determined that Hertel was aware of the baby's condition at about 4 p.m. Dec. 18, but she didn't call law enforcement for more than an hour. The Minnesota resource Center physician reported that the baby's injuries increased during the hour he went without medical care.

The complaint states that Hertel and Lundberg didn't provide any "reasonable" explanation for the baby's injuries. Lundberg said if anything happened, it was an accident, and he didn't want to go to jail. Hertel has told a number of people she knows what happened to the baby, but she refuses to tell them what happened.

If convicted of first-degree assault, Lundberg faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. If convicted of neglect or endangerment, Hertel faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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