BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota woman whose 13-year-old son weighed 21 pounds when he died in January has been charged with murder, authorities said Tuesday.
State Medical Examiner William Massello said Jessica Lee Jensen's son died from chronic starvation due to untreated juvenile appetite disorder. He listed the manner of death as homicide.
Aidan Edward Bossingham's weight was about the same as that of a young toddler when he died. His mother told investigators that Aidan had a hormonal growth problem and that his pituitary gland did not function properly, according to court documents.
Jensen, 35, of Kenmare, in northern North Dakota near the Canadian border, said her son would eat and then throw up. She said he had not seen a doctor for several years, the documents say.
She also has been charged with neglect for allegedly failing to provide proper care for her two other children — a 14-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter, both of whom are the biological children of her husband, Charles Jensen. The court documents describe him as being "separated" from Jessica Jensen and say he moved out of the family home last summer.
The two children are staying with family members, said Ward County sheriff's Capt. Robert Barnard.
After her first child was born, Jessica Jensen had Aidan with a man who is now deceased, court documents state.
The murder and neglect charges were filed Monday, and Minot attorney Robert Martin said he was appointed Tuesday to represent Jessica Jensen. Martin said he had not yet met with Jensen and had no comment.
She was being held Tuesday in the Ward County Jail in Minot. Her bond was set at $250,000, and her next court date is May 1.
The investigation began the night of Jan. 12 when authorities received a call from Jessica Jensen who, according to court documents, told the dispatcher her son had "passed on."
Kenmare police officer Jason Cartier arrived at the family's house and reported that Jensen was sitting on a couch with a small child in her arms and told him, "He's dead." The officer reported that Jensen appeared "exceptionally calm" while he was at the home.
Cartier tried to open the child's mouth to do CPR, but couldn't because of the onset of rigor mortis, the documents say. Massello, the medical examiner, said such stiffening of the body typically sets in after three hours in a house at 70 degrees.
The court documents state that Jensen told the police officer she had waited a half-hour before calling 911. The documents do not indicate what the temperature was in the home at the time the boy was found.
The documents describe the boy as having been "gaunt, with bones and joints visible under the skin" and with "bruises and contusions on various parts of his body."
A nurse practitioner at Trinity Kenmare Community Hospital reported that the child looked to be 2 or 3 years old, the documents say.
Jensen told investigators that on the day her son Aidan died he had eaten oatmeal for breakfast and later had a Sprite, yogurt and some homemade "Pedialyte," according to the documents.
She told them that she could not recall the last time the boy had seen a doctor. She said her children do not have a regular physician because she believes she can "solve the problems," the court documents state.
Massello reported the child's body weighed 21 pounds when examined. The medical examiner also reported that the boy's stomach was empty and observed that his conditions were medically treatable, the documents say.
The documents note Jensen's home was "quite cluttered and dirty" and that one of the bedrooms "was littered with filth and what appeared to be feces."
Jensen told authorities that she had been home schooling her two sons for several years, the court documents state. The documents indicate that Jensen's sons attended school until May 2009. In August of that year, Jensen filed statements of intent to home-school the boys. She filed nothing more with the school district until March of 2012, which the documents show followed an investigation by county social services into a report of educational neglect.
No statement of intent to educate her 7-year-old daughter has been filed, according to court documents. The daughter was unable to spell her name, the documents state, and she told investigators she does not attend school but does homework at home on a computer.