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Two children, ages 2 and 3, were hospitalized after being found alone in a crib — starving, their rib cages clearly defined — while in the care of their father in a filthy home near Princeton that was smelling of dog feces and littered with bags of marijuana, authorities said Monday.

Michael S. Gunderson, of Baldwin Township, was charged Monday with two counts of felony child neglect and felony drug possession. Gunderson, 32, remains in the Sherburne County jail in lieu of $40,000 bail.

The mother, who had been working in Utah for the previous two months, “discovered the children to be weak and thin” when she returned to the home in the 31600 block of 123rd Street NW., just south of Princeton, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

She saw her children in a crib, the younger too weak to walk, according to the criminal complaint against her husband.

One of them “appeared to be trying to eat feces,” the document continued. Gunderson was at work at the time, authorities said.

Fairview Northland Medical Center in Princeton notified the Sheriff’s Office early Friday afternoon about the conditions of the children, who remained hospitalized Monday.

Medical personnel noted that the children had sores on their bodies and “were diagnosed as being severely malnourished and subject to starvation,” the charges read.

According to the complaint:

The mother said she lost her job in November and moved to Salt Lake City for work around the first of the year, leaving the children with their father.

She returned on Friday to a home smelling of urine and feces, and her children in a crib. Gunderson was not at home.

The mother took the children to the hospital, where they were “immediately given fluids by IV,” the complaint read.

In an interview with law enforcement, Gunderson said he was at work when his wife came to the home, which has limited electricity and lacked garbage service. He said he’s been working 12-hour shifts and “had no one else to care for them,” according to the charging document.

He agreed that the children had lost weight while their mother was away and “noticed they had not been eating much lately.”

A search of the home turned up a pound of marijuana scattered throughout the home in baggies, and numerous items indicating that the drug was being cultivated in the home.

The home was “extremely filthy and littered with garbage and dog feces throughout,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Gunderson’s criminal history in Minnesota includes two convictions for drug possession and another for aiding and abetting second-degree assault.

In 2003, he was convicted of careless driving in Hennepin County, while other charges in the case of drunken driving, marijuana possession and having open liquor in the vehicle were dismissed.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482