Mankato mother charged with assault, baby on life support

A Mankato woman has been charged with assault after her baby suffered severe injuries and is now on life support.

Chelsea Rae Olinger, 27, is charged with first-degree assault.

According to a criminal complaint, Mankato police were called to a suspicious circumstances report at a hospital at about 7:08 a.m. on Feb. 10. When an officer arrived, a hospital employee said Olinger brought her 16-month-old child to the hospital claiming it had fallen down a flight of stairs. The officer met with hospital social workers who said the child was nonresponsive upon arriving at the hospital, and while providing treatment learned the child had bleeding on the brain.

Hospital staff talked with Olinger, who said she heard the child crying at about 4 a.m. so she brought the child from its crib to sleep in bed with her. The complaint states Olinger said they went to sleep, but she awoke again at about 6:30 a.m. and found the child crying at the bottom of a staircase. She added that when she picked the child up, it became nonresponsive.

Hospital staff told the officer that the child suffered cardiopulmonary arrest twice and was taken to Mayo Clinic in Rochester. At that time, a Mankato detective and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) special agent then joined the investigation.

The complaint states medical records revealed the child was nonresponsive when arriving at the ER, and no breathing or heart rate was detected. An emergency procedure was performed to remove a subdural hematoma before the child was transferred to Rochester, and doctors found additional injuries including two fractured vertebrae, seven fractured ribs and a lacerated liver.

A doctor, who has extensive experience in treating child abuse victims, told investigators the child's injuries weren't consistent with a fall down the stairs and appeared intentional, the complaint states.

Investigators then met with Olinger in Rochester, who said that after she awoke at 4 a.m., she grabbed the child's body and tried to put it down four or five times and the last time she believed she hit the child's head on the crib. The complaint states Olinger claimed she didn't intentionally hurt the child, but said she was frustrated because it wouldn't go back to bed. Olinger also admitted to covering the child's mouth with her hand while lying in bed, and that the child's head was flopping back and forth as she tried to put it back to bed. She again claimed she later found the child at the bottom of the stairs.

The following day, investigators again talked with Olinger, the complaint states. During that interview, Olinger said she told her mother what had happened and her mother asked why she didn't tell the truth from the beginning, which she responded to as saying she was scared.

Olinger then told authorities she didn't realize when she was putting the child into the crib that she was hurting it. She again admitted to putting her hand over the child's mouth and again said she found the child at the bottom of the stairs.

The complaint said tests indicated the child had no brain activity and was on life support.

Olinger's bail was set at $1 million with no conditions or $500,000 with conditions. Her initial appearance is set for Feb. 27.