A 47-year-old woman and her 5-year-old son were found hanged in an Orono home in what police said Tuesday is an apparent murder-suicide.
Police in the Lake Minnetonka community conducted a welfare check Monday night after the boy “had not been returned to his father for parenting,” Police Chief Correy Farniok said Tuesday afternoon. That’s when officers found the woman and boy hanged in the basement of the home in the 2200 block of Bayview Place.
Identities of the woman and child will be released by the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office.
Officers first stopped by the home Monday afternoon, after the father notified police that he could not reach anyone there to arrange for picking up his son at 5 p.m., Farniok said. The woman and man have joint custody of the boy, the chief added.
The home was locked and no one answered the door, Farniok said. Police told the father there was nothing they could do at that time, since there was no evidence of anyone’s well-being at risk. The father was advised to call back later if the situation remained the same, the chief said.
After the father called again, a relative who lived nearby and had keys let police in at about 8 p.m. That’s when the bodies were found and a preliminary determination of murder-suicide was made, the chief said.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if we would have [entered] at that 4 o’clock time or that 8 o’clock time,” Farniok said. “[The deaths] occurred prior to that time.”
According to court documents, a woman who is listed as owning the home was involved in a lengthy custody battle with the father of her 5-year-old son, with each accusing the other of harming the boy.
The two began a romantic relationship in 2008, and the next year discussed having a child through in vitro fertilization. After several failed pregnancy attempts, the boy was born in August 2012.
By July 2015, the relationship had become toxic. The woman received an order for protection against the father, saying he had been physically abusing her since 2009. That petition was eventually settled and dismissed.
But the two continued to fight over the pregnancy costs and how to care for the boy. They filed court motions against one another over which school district he should attend. On Friday, Hennepin County District Judge Edward Wahl ruled in the father’s favor.
The court records include many of the boy’s report cards, pictures and assessments. His preschool teacher wrote that the boy is “doing great in class! He is such a smiley and loving boy!”
Star Tribune staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report.