Paynesville mother charged in disabled child's death, allegedly didn't provide care when child was in distress

Elise Christine Nelson Photo: Stearns County . Elise Christine Nelson

Charlie Wiese
Updated: September 24, 2020 12:38 PM
Created: September 24, 2020 12:10 PM

The mother of a child with significant medical issues has been charged with second-degree intentional homicide and second-degree manslaughter in connection to the child's death.

According to the criminal complaint, 35-year-old Elise Christine Nelson is the mother of a child with cerebral palsy, chronic respiratory failure due to aspiration and severe developmental delays.

On June 21, the child was pronounced dead at the Paynesville Hospital.

The investigation into the death revealed that Nelson lived on the 1600 block of West Mill Street in Paynesville with her husband and two children. Her husband went on a fishing trip on June 18 and Nelson had planned to go to a cabin with the two children. The child with disabilities, however, was not able to go at the last minute and Nelson changed plans sending her other child to stay at a friend's home for the weekend while she and the disabled child stayed at the home.

The disabled child had a pulse oximeter machine that routinely monitored her blood oxygen saturation and pulse rate. The machine would sound a loud alarm if the child's oxygen saturation or pulse dropped below a certain percentage.

On June 20, when the child's oximeter alarm sounded, Nelson silenced the alarm and manually dropped the oxygen alarm parameter from 90% to 87% saturation. At-home care nurses who cared for the child and later talked to police said there is no medical reason why the oxygen saturation lower limit should be below 90%.

Later in the day, the child's oxygen saturation dropped below the 87% limit before Nelson turned off the machine.

Early the next morning, Nelson turned the machine back on. When the alarm continued to sound she manually lowered the lower limit to 89%, then 79%, before proceeding to eventually lower it 77%, 76% and 74%. When the alarm sounded, Nelson continued to manually silence the machine.

At 6:43 a.m. on June 21, the machine indicated a status of "LP," which indicates that the sensor is attached but no pulse can be found.

Nelson did not make a call to 911 until 1:07 p.m. Officers arrived on the scene at 1:13 p.m. and found the child lying on the living room floor and cold to the touch.

The Midwest Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death as being caused by bilateral bronchopneumonia related to injuries suffered during delivery and opined that, because Nelson intentionally deprived care, the manner of death was a homicide.

Nelson made her first court appearance Thursday.


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