Plymouth Parents Charged with Neglect after 7-Year-Old Boy Dies

A Plymouth mother and father have been charged with neglect after a 7-year-old boy was found unresponsive and died.

According to a criminal complaint, Plymouth police officers responded to a residence on Vicksburg Lane on a report of a child not breathing the morning of Monday, Mar. 30, 2015. Authorities found the boy on the bathroom floor while his father, identified as 39-year-old Timothy Johnson was performing CPR. Authorities say the boy’s mother, identified as 38-year-old Sarah Johnson, was also inside the residence.

Despite life-saving efforts by EMS personnel at the scene, the boy was pronounced dead.
Members of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Crime Lab said the boy had multiple bruises and breaks on his skin as well as pressure ulcers on the back of each heel. According to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s report, the boy’s cause of death was acute pancreatitis and possible sepsis. The report also stated the boy had blisters on his legs consistent with bullous impetigo.

According to the complaint, the boy was placed in foster care into the Johnsons’ home at the age of three. Sarah Johnson did not report concerns for the boy’s health, according to the complaint, and described him as a bright child. The Johnsons adopted the boy when he was 4 years old and began homeschooling him. He had another medical exam at the age of five, which did not indicate any concerns.

During interviews with law enforcement officials and the medical examiner’s office, the Johnsons noted changes in the boy’s behavior in the weeks leading up to his death. They said the boy would have trouble sleeping and would sometimes shake. The boy developed blisters on his legs, including the lesions on his heels. The Johnsons told officials that they couldn’t say how the injuries developed except to say that the boy was always hurting himself, by throwing himself down stairs and hitting his head. They said the boy also started to slow his eating.

Despite the changes in the boy’s behavior, the Johnsons refused to take him to a doctor, telling authorities they had “issues with going to doctors.” They said they were concerned doctors would put the boy on medication and that they would prefer to do their own research. The Johnsons concluded the boy had post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. The Johnsons told authorities the boy had previously been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and reactive attachment disorder, however, the clinic they referenced as having seen the boy did not have a record of either diagnosing or treating the boy.

Without doctor input, the Johnsons increased the boy’s vitamin intake and treated his wounds with Neosporin and “medical honey,” the complaint states.

In the days leading up to the boy’s death, the Johnsons left town for a wedding, leaving the boy in the care of a 16-year-old relative. The relative called the Johnsons on March 29 to say the boy would neither eat nor interact. The relative said the boy was not speaking and that he couldn’t get him out of bed. The Johnsons decided to return but then remained out of town when the relative said the boy had eaten some Cheerios.

When the Johnsons did return from the wedding the night of March 29, the complaint states, they found the boy lying on the floor. They tried to feed him a couple bites of pizza before giving him a bath and getting him ready for bed. The boy was sleeping on a mattress equipped with an alarm so that the Johnsons would be notified if the boy got up in the night.

The following morning, Timothy Johnson awoke to a noise and found the boy unresponsive on the mattress, covered in vomit, the complaint states. It was then that Sarah Johnson called 911.

Neither Timothy Johnson nor Sarah Johnson is in custody.