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Saunders pleads guilty to abuse of infant son: Dickinson man sentenced 2 years after child’s death

A Dickinson man pleaded guilty Tuesday on three drug-related charges related to the death of his 7-month-old son.

Andrue Saunders pled guilty to three Class C felony charges of child abuse, possession of a controlled substance, cocaine and terrorizing at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson.

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Saunders, who was born in 1989, was charged with child abuse after an autopsy showed traces of cocaine and methamphetamine in his infant son after the child was found dead in the home Saunders shared with his then-wife Theresa Saunders.

In a plea agreement with the Stark County State’s Attorney’s Office, Andrue Saunders was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with all but 18 months suspended for each count to be served congruently with credit for time served, five year’s supervised probation upon release and fines and fees totalling $3,150. Saunders had $1,525 in court fines and fees and $1,575 he must reimburse the state for the services of his public defender, Kevin McCabe. He will also have to register as an offender against children and will not be permitted to be with a minor until the end of his probation.

Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Ehlis presented the agreement and Judge Zane Anderson accepted.

The co-defendant in the case, Theresa Saunders pleaded guilty earlier this month to Class C felony child abuse, but avoided jail time.

The child abuse charges come from the trace amounts of drugs found in the infant’s body after he died of asphyxiation, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, in October 2011. An investigation ensued and the Saunderses were arrested on Dec. 7, 2012.

While the drugs were not the cause of the child’s death, Ehlis believed they contributed to it.

Because they had not seen the autopsy, McCabe said that Andrue Saunders would only admit to doing drugs in front of his children and not to the drugs found in the infant’s system.

At the time of the arrest, less than a gram of cocaine was found on Andrue Saunders, resulting in the possession charge, Ehlis said.

The third charge of terrorizing came after a Feb. 11 incident when Andrue Saunders entered a home under the influence of an intoxicating substance, got in a fight with his stepfather and threatened to cut him “from top to bottom,” according to court documents. Andrue Saunders was arrested by a Stark County Sheriff’s deputy.

A preliminary hearing on the terrorizing charge was scheduled for Monday, March 31, but the agreement wrapped the charge with the others, and Andrue Saunders waived his rights to the hearing.

Andure Saunders will be required to report for his sentence at 9 a.m. Friday.

McCabe and Andrue Saunders made the request for his sentence to be delayed a few days due to medical issues. Anderson upheld the request, requiring Andrue Sanders to remain under the 24/7 program to protect his sobriety. Ehlis had wanted his sentence to begin immediately for fear of his using.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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