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Man receives maximum sentence in foster child death: 2-year-old drowned in unattended shower

BEMIDJI -- A Bemidji man whose 2-year-old foster daughter drowned after he left her in the shower received the maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter Friday.

Nathan Daniel Jackson Sr.

Nathan Daniel Jackson, 39, received a four-year-nine month sentence, despite requests by his attorney, public defender Heather Labat, to sentence him only to probation. Jackson will receive credit for the 264 days he has already spent in the Beltrami County Jail.

During the emotional sentencing hearing the family of Kira Friedman spoke to Judge John Melbye about the effect of her death. Before the victim impact statements began, Melbye warned the courtroom, filled with supporters of both Jackson and Friedman, that outbursts would not be tolerated and said anyone behaving inappropriately would be removed.

Randi Ruhanen, the mother of Friedman’s brothers, tearfully remembered the last time she had seen the toddler, who had just learned to walk.

“I will always cherish the memories I have of my boys and Kira,” Ruhanen said. “Kira was loved by her family. She was not forgotten in foster care.”

Friedman was living with Jackson, his former fiance and their children when Jackson put her in the shower the morning of June 5. When pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter last month Jackson admitted that he had been using methamphetamine earlier that morning.

According to Jackson’s testimony, he put Friedman in the shower along with a laundry tote he said he noticed was dirty. Jackson left the child and the laundry bin -- an 18-gallon Rubbermaid tub without holes -- in the shower with the water running for about 15 minutes. When he did check on Friedman she was fully submerged, and was later found to have died as the result of freshwater drowning.

Kira Friedman, Provided by Atkins-Northland Funeral Home

While summarizing a motion asking Melbye to sentence Jackson to 10 years of probation, Labat said Jackson is remorseful and that he needs treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues.

“He has to change his behaviors and seek the treatment he needs,” Labat said. “I think he learned a lot while he’s been incarcerated.”

Jackson apologized to his family, Friedman’s family, the Bemidji Police Department, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, all attorneys involved, the Bemidji Fire Department, the city of Bemidji, Beltrami County and all of northern Minnesota.

Following the sentencing, Jackson’s mother Debbie Jackson said her son was also hurting because of Friedman’s death.

“I’m proud of my son,” she said. “He’s a good dad.”

Friedman’s family members, however, said in court they did not believe that Jackson was sorry for causing the child’s death.

“This man has no remorse for taking her life,” said Kimberly White, Friedman’s aunt. “How can a father of five murder a baby?”

Melbye followed prosecutors’ recommendations to give Jackson the maximum sentence.

“You may have addictions you need to address but that did not cause this,” Melbye told Jackson. “Your actions caused this.”

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or

(218) 333-9796