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Family of Minnesota toddler tortured to death slam foster mom for claiming 'self-harm' caused brutal injuries

Kelly Jo Anderson has been charged with second-degree murder and faces up to 40 years in prison if found guilty
Kelly Jo Anderson (Clay County Sheriff’s Office)
Kelly Jo Anderson (Clay County Sheriff’s Office)

BARNESVILLE, MINNESOTA: The devastated family of a slain toddler has slammed the alleged killer's claims that the young boy had died from injuries caused by self-harming behavior.

MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) previously reported that Kelly Jo Anderson, 35, had been arrested late last month over the death of her 18-month-old foster son Henry after he was found to have several bruises across his body, as well as cuts to his lips and genitals.

Anderson, who worked as a nurse in Barnesville, Minnesota, had rushed the toddler to a Fargo, North Dakota, hospital on April 24 but he was declared dead on arrival. Henry was reportedly "blue and lifeless," with doctors finding from his body temperature that he had been dead for at least 40 minutes.

They also noted "a cut on the inside of his lip, numerous bruises on his back and side, a small bump on the back of his head, multiple marks on his face and a cut to his genitals," raising suspicion that he had died as a result of abuse.

When questioned, Anderson claimed that the boy had "self-injured" by throwing himself around. She said she had been bathing him the night before she brought him to the hospital when he "threw himself several times from the bath to the toilet" and that she suspected he had a seizure.

The suggestion has been lambasted by Henry's relatives, who insisted the toddler was a normal boy with no suicidal inclinations.

"Henry did not have self-harming tendencies outside of typical toddler tantrums," they told Metro in a statement. "Even with the tantrums, he did not 'throw himself around.' His grandma Kayla had no issues when she would bathe him and Henry enjoyed bath time when he was with her. Our family does not believe in any way, shape, or form that Henry inflicted the injuries that caused his death on himself."

Anderson's husband, who is a cousin of the toddler's biological mother, also disputed the self-harm claims and said the 18-month-old had never previously suffered seizures.

He and Anderson had been fostering Henry since July but had reportedly been in the process of adopting him when the young boy died. His cousin is said to have struggled with drug addiction and had given her up when she tested positive for an illegal drug shortly after birth.

Henry had initially been under the care of his grandmother Kayla, who had to decide against adopting him because her age would prevent her from taking care of him full-time. Anderson had subsequently volunteered to look after the boy on evenings and weekends, before then announcing she had plans to adopt him.

The family said it had been thrilled when they heard the news. "Kellie stated it was a sign from God, as they wanted to have another child, and had they had a boy, they were going to name him Henry. The family was excited about this. Henry would be with family and we would all get to be a part of his life and watch him grow. The situation was perfect."

But they were unaware that the 35-year-old had been abusing the toddler. A postmortem determined his cause of death as asphyxiation associated with blunt-force trauma, and his death was ruled as a homicide.

Anderson has been charged with second-degree murder and is currently being held on a $500,000 bond. She's scheduled to make her next appearance in court on June 11 and faces a maximum of 40 years in prison if found guilty.

"We trusted Kellie and feel betrayed," the family said. "We want justice for Henry. Kellie needs to be held accountable to what she did to a vulnerable child. Henry trusted her, we trusted her and now a little life is gone."