Update: Parents to appeal decision

Charity and Bryan Miller are led down the hall of the Jail and Justice Center after being taken into custody on July 22, 2011, for chaining their now 6-year-old son to his crib. District Judge Fred Wellmann terminated their parental rights in a ruling issued today. -- Herald file photo

Judge terminates child-chainers’ parental rights

The Dexter couple who chained their now 6-year-old son to his crib will appeal the termination of their parental rights.

District Judge Fred Wellmann terminated the Millers’ parental rights in a ruling issued Thursday afternoon. Wellmann ruled that all requirements to terminate their rights rights have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and issued their now 6- and 9-year-old sons’ custody to Mower County Human Services for foster care placement.

Attorney Dan Donnelly, who represents Charity Miller, 27, said his client will appeal the ruling — which would go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals — but declined to comment further. Attorney Tom Lenway, who represents the father, Brian Miller, 34, said he will also appeal the decision and would be available to add more details on the decision next week.

The Millers have had no contact with their children since they were arrested in April 2011 for chaining their youngest son to his crib from bedtime until morning every night over a six-month span. They made their sons stay in their bedrooms most of the time and didn’t provide them sufficient food or bathroom access. The younger son weighed less than 30 pounds when he and his brother were placed with a foster family in April 2011.

The Millers were sentenced in July 2011 to one year in jail on one count each of gross misdemeanor false imprisonment and one count each of malicious punishment, but were released in January after serving almost exactly six months. They received credit for time served and participated in the sentence to service program, which reduced their required time in jail.

While the Millers will never have custody of their two children again if the ruling stands, it doesn’t automatically bar them from having more kids and parenting them in the future. There would be concerns, however.

“If they were to have children again, I think Mower County Human Services would still have concerns about their ability to parent and would look at our options for addressing those concerns at that time,” said Aaron Jones, assistant Mower County Attorney.

“If they had kids, the authorities anywhere would have concerns,” he added.

Wellmann’s ruling Thursday was the second in this case. Wellmann ruled in June 2011 that the Millers had caused egregious harm to their children, but could retain their parental rights if they completed a case plan to reunify their family pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act, as Charity and one of the two sons are members of the Cherokee Tribe. MCHS petitioned to terminate the Millers’ parental rights again in February, claiming the parents had not done enough to reunify their family, and Wellmann ruled in MCHS’s favor Thursday.

— Amanda Lillie and Matt Peterson contributed to this report.

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