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Donnell sentenced for felony neglect or endangerment of a child

Kristian James Donnell, 30, of Red Lake, was sentenced on Monday for felony neglect or endangerment of a child.

Donnell, who was convicted in April 1998 for causing the death of his 7-week-old son, was accused of injuring his 6-week-old son last year.

He was sentenced to 55 months in prison and given a stay of execution. He was ordered to serve six months in jail and have supervised probation for five years. He also was ordered to pay a $1,080 fine.

Other conditions include that he not use or possess alcohol, not enter establishments that sell or serve alcohol, not have contact with the child or his mother until the Department of Corrections gives its OK, complete a chemical dependency evaluation, a psychological evaluation and have no contact with minor children.

Donnell was charged in January 2007 with first-degree assault. The charge was amended in July to felony neglect or endangerment of a child, to which Donnell pleaded guilty.

When Donnell's 6-week-old son was admitted to North Country Regional Hospital at 9:15 a.m. Oct. 14, 2006, hospital staff told police that the infant had trauma consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

The mother, who was one of three adults who admitted the child, told police that the baby had a tendency of rearing his head while taking a bath. She said Donnell was giving the child a bath - his baths are given in the kitchen sink as they do not have a bathtub - when the infant reared his head back and struck it on the counter top. The mother told police that the sound of the child's head striking the counter top was not loud, and did not seem serious until about one hour later when he had labored breathing.

The officer then spoke with a doctor, who said the injury the mother described was inconsistent with the baby's injuries. The doctor said there was blood in the back of the infant's head, and there was evidence of an older, similar injury in the same region of his head.

The infant was airlifted to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, where doctors informed an investigator that the boy's MRI showed brain contusions and evidence of extensive injury, including an anoxic injury. The report showed that the child had seizures and an abnormal EEG, and retinal hemorrhages more pronounced on the right side than the left. The child had no skin or scalp injury and a bone survey was negative.

The doctors concluded that the infant had "classic findings of abusive head trauma, commonly known as shaken baby syndrome," the criminal complaint said. Further, doctors said the child's skull fracture would probably place the child in the category of shaken impact syndrome.

The doctors gave the infant a poor prognosis and said the child had evidence of recent injury as well as old injury as seen on CAT scans and the MRI.

The mother permitted two police officers to enter the child's home and examine the area where the child was given a bath on Oct. 14. They took photographs, which showed the area was inconsistent with the child having recently bathed - there were dirty dishes in the sink and no towels, soap, shampoo or lotion in the kitchen.

On Oct. 18, an investigator and a detective went to the home again to make contact with either the mother or Donnell to get a statement, but no one answered the door, although they did note the presence of a vehicle registered to them.

They then received reports about an investigation between April and July 1998 involving an investigation on the Red Lake Indian Reservation regarding Donnell and his involvement in the death of his 7-week-old son in 1998 in which he pleaded guilty.

The investigator and the detective went to Donnell's parents' home in relation to the October 2006 incident and were told to leave the property; the detective gave them his card and asked them to tell their son to contact him.

When Donnell called police he said that on Oct. 10, he was changing his son's clothing when he lost his grip on the infant and the child fell from a sitting position, striking his head on the table.

The mother told police that the child had a routine check up at the doctor's office on Oct. 10 and everything checked out OK. She said Donnell was changing the child on Oct. 11 when the infant fell backward and hit his head.

She said the boy was acting like an ordinary child on Oct. 12 and 13 and was cooing and following her voice, but on Oct. 14, he began to act strangely and would straighten out and let out a loud cry, so she decided to take him to the hospital.

She told police the child was not given a bath on Oct. 14.

The child since has improved and now is in the care of his maternal grandparents; he still has seizures, the complaint said.