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Foster mom pleads guilty, sentenced in death of 3-year-old in Dakota County

Zeporia Fortenberry. Photo: Dakota County
Zeporia Fortenberry.

June 20, 2019 03:16 PM

A woman entered a guilty plea and was sentenced Thursday in the death of her 3-year-old foster child in June, 2017.

According to court records, Zeporia Fortenberry entered a guilty plea towards manslaughter in the second-degree child neglect and was sentenced for just under three-and-a-half years in prison (41 months). She has credit for 14 days served. 

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The other person involved in this case, Charles Wayne Homich, entered a guilty plea in April to one count of second-degree murder in connection to the death of Zayden Lawson, a foster child who was in the care of Homich's girlfriend, Fortenberry. He will be sentenced on Aug. 13.


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According to a criminal complaint, emergency personnel were called to an Eagan townhome on June 7, 2017. When they arrived, they found 3-year-old Zayden Lawson laying on his back on the living room floor, unconscious and not breathing. Medics were unable to revive Lawson, and he was transported to St. Paul Children's Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

According to the complaint, an autopsy showed the death was due to multiple blunt force injuries.

The complaint also says the foster mother told police she believed Homich had something to do with Lawson's death. A friend of Fortenberry and one of Homich's coworkers also allegedly each told police Homich had hit the boy, according to the complaint.

Fortenberry will also owe $230 in court fees.

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