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Lakeville Dad Pleads Guilty to Attempted Murder of 2 Children

Twenty-eight-year-old Jay Anthony Ernst is expected to be sentenced Sept. 16 in Hastings. Photo: Photo: Dakota County Sheriff's Office Twenty-eight-year-old Jay Anthony Ernst is expected to be sentenced Sept. 16 in Hastings.

July 25, 2016 02:29 PM

A Lakeville dad has pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree attempted murder in connection to an apparent suicide attempt that also involved his two young children. The October 2015 incident led to an AMBER Alert.

Twenty-eight-year-old Jay Anthony Ernst is expected to be sentenced Sept. 16 in Hastings.

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The incident started at 1:35 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, at a home in Lakeville after a woman called police and said she found her son, identified as Ernst, and his two boys in a running car in a garage. A hose was connected to the exhaust pipe and routed inside the car, police say.

When confronted by his mother, police say Ernst drove off. The AMBER Alert was issued about 4:20 a.m. when police learned that the two boys, ages 2 and 4 at the time, were inside the vehicle with Ernst.

Lakeville police say the AMBER Alert was issued because Ernst tried to kill the children, not because it was a stranger abduction.

Ernst had mentioned contemplating suicide to family members prior to the incident, but police said they didn't know if Ernst had weapons with him or where he was heading. They believed he intended to kill himself and his sons, according to the complaint.

Burnsville police found Ernst’s vehicle at 4:30 a.m. heading southbound on Interstate 35E near County Road 42, and Ernst was arrested after a brief struggle.

Both of the children were examined by first medical experts and “appeared to be in good health,” police said.

Ernst’s mother told police that Ernst had been under “a lot of stress” recently involving his marriage and addiction. She said she believed he had reached his breaking point.

In a statement to police, Ernst said he borrowed his mom’s car keys and told her he wanted to sit in the garage and listen to music. He admitted to hooking up the hose to the vehicle, inserting the other end into the vehicle’s window and then lying down in the back of the vehicle with his sons, according to police.

Police say he also admitted to driving away when his mom came out to check on him.

Ernst denied wanting to harm himself or his kids, and he claimed the whole incident was “his way of crying out for help” to address his addiction issues. He said he felt the only way he would be able to get chemical dependency treatment was for him to do something so extreme that police would assist him in getting into a treatment program, according to the complaint.

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Jennie Lissarrague

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