Parents accused of neglect in child’s death miss court date

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

By Brandon Stahl

Minneapolis Star Tribune

A Hennepin County judge issued arrest warrants Tuesday for a couple charged with failing to seek medical care for their gravely ill 7-year-old son before he died on a vomit-stained mattress in their Plymouth home.

Email newsletter signup

Timothy D. Johnson, 39, and Sarah N. Johnson, 38, failed to show at their first court appearance Tuesday, one month after they were charged in Hennepin County District Court with gross misdemeanor child neglect in connection with the March 30, 2015, death of son Seth Johnson. The boy endured extensive trauma from an inflamed pancreas and possible infections until he died, according to the criminal complaints.

The Johnsons, who were not arrested when charged, were required to appear in court, but Assistant Hennepin County Attorney John Halla told Judge Gina Brandt that the two have moved to New Zealand.

Halla requested a new court date “in order to attempt international service on Mr. Johnson and his wife.”

Brandt issued arrest warrants for the Johnsons but delayed executing them until Wednesday, when the court could receive more information from another prosecutor on attempts to reach the couple. Once the warrants are in effect, the Johnsons could be arrested and extradited to the United States.

Failed to seek help

Despite a yearlong review of evidence and consultations with a child abuse pediatrician, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said last month that Seth’s illness and death could not be linked to the actions or inactions of the Johnsons. As a result, the Johnsons were charged with the most serious crime the law allows, he said.

According to the criminal complaint, Seth, who first joined the Johnson family through foster care and later was adopted, was severely underdeveloped physically and had numerous scrapes and bruises on his body at the time of his death.

In the weeks leading up to Seth’s death, his parents said he stopped sleeping, would shake on occasion and developed blisters and other marks on his legs, along with lesions on his heels, which suggest a lack of mobility.