Police still investigating death of West Fargo 6-month old

WEST FARGO, N.D. -- Police continue to investigate the June 2 death of 6-month-old Owen Skodje after a final autopsy report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Officer failed to answer their question about when Owen was fatally injured.

Owen Skodje

WEST FARGO, N.D. -- Police continue to investigate the June 2 death of 6-month-old Owen Skodje after a final autopsy report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Officer failed to answer their question about when Owen was fatally injured.

Officers are interviewing anyone who had contact with the boy before his death.

"We're going to continue to investigate until all leads are exhausted," said West Fargo Police Chief Michael Reitan.

Owen, the son of Casey Skodje and Kristin Hunstad of Fargo, was found unresponsive at an unlicensed West Fargo day care about 1 p.m. June 1. He was taken to a Fargo hospital, then flown to the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis where he died June 2.

The medical examiner's report, released in September, ruled Owen's death a homicide and said the infant died as a result of complications from a head injury.


Detective Tim Runcorn said this week that he is not ready to release the names of any suspects or persons of interest in the case.

"Obviously, we're looking into many people that had an association with [Owen] right now," Runcorn said. "This is just one of those cases where it's not as clear-cut as we would like."

Owen could have been injured hours, days or weeks before he lost consciousness that day, he said.

"We're trying to pinpoint who was with the baby, who would have some type of incident with him," Runcorn said. "Head injuries with babies are especially difficult to pinpoint and say when it happened. Usually it points to someone specifically, but there have been a lot of people around this baby."

Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker said the lengthy autopsy process was due to many specialized tests and some scientific processes that can be time-consuming. Cases involving young children are especially complex, he said.

"All investigations take time," Reitan said. "And sometimes the evidence is easily discovered and the case can be resolved quickly. There are other times where it is more difficult to obtain the necessary evidence and it requires additional investigation, based on the complexity of the case. Sometimes there is a lot of information that needs to be reviewed and it takes some time to decipher the evidence and determine what lead to follow next."

West Fargo police are working the case with Cass County Human Services and Fargo police because Owen is from Fargo, Runcorn said. The agencies plan to meet again in the next week to review the case.

Cass County Social Services visited the West Fargo home June 4 and found that Darcy Jo Anderson, the unlicensed day care operator, was caring for eight children. North Dakota law allows for day care operators to care for up to five children, including their own, without a license. Under state law, an unlicensed provider who cares for more children than what is allowed can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.


Ruby Kolpack, Cass County Social Services licensing specialist, said Thursday she forwarded her June report to the Cass County State's Attorney's Office for possible charges.

Prosecutor Cheri Clark said Thursday that the case remains open and is still under investigation.

Anderson's day care license was revoked in 2011 after multiple complaints alleged she was rough with children, smoked in the home and yelled at the children and a parent. She appealed the decision, but it was upheld by an administrative law judge in January 2012.

Social Services received complaints that Anderson was still caring for more than five children in September 2012 and May 2014, but Anderson claimed she was not.

Kolpack said she has not received any reports or complaints regarding Anderson since this summer. It is unclear if Anderson is still caring for children at her home. No one responded when a Forum reporter visited the home last week.

A search warrant for the day care filed in Cass County District Court in June by West Fargo police stated that the first physician to see Owen in Fargo said Owen's brain injury appeared to have happened about the time of the 911 call that was made by Anderson's 15-year-old daughter. Owen had been in Anderson's care since early that morning, police said.

Search warrant records also showed that doctors found fractures in the infant's skull -- recent fractures and possibly an older one -- and retinal hemorrhages and recent trauma.

Casey Skodje told police his son had been healthy until early May and was sick since then, losing about a pound over a little less than a month.


Owen's parents did not respond to a request for comment last week.

Owen Skodje
Owen Skodje

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
What To Read Next
Neil Joseph Pfeifer was released Friday, Feb. 3, on $5,000 cash bail.
State lawmakers hear from both sides as parents and educators weigh in on the potential impact of the bill
“We see that when things happen in the coastal areas, a few years later, they start trending toward the Midwest,” said Rep. Ben Krohmer, serving his first term in the House.
Stark County prosecutors prepare for pretrial conferences and jury trials scheduled for March