ST. PAUL — “How to make a baby really sick.” “Miralax overdose.” “Child salt death.”
Those were some of the phrases a Lewiston mother typed into the web browser on her phone in the months before the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office charged her with trying to endanger her infant’s life, authorities say.
They searched her phone after medical staff at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul notified police about troubling behavior involving the mother of a 9-month-old who was admitted to the hospital last July 11 for “failure to thrive,” according to court documents.
Medical staff suspected Megan Lee Kafer, 25, was harming her son because the infant weighed so little despite doctors’ “inexplicably ineffective” efforts to help him gain weight, say charges filed against her last week.
They placed the baby and Kafer in a hospital room setup with a surveillance camera on July 26 to monitor their interactions. They soon observed the mother, who didn’t know she was being recorded, inject something into her child’s feeding tube with a syringe, her criminal complaint said.
At that point, authorities entered the room and told Kafer they needed to talk to her. She reportedly started shaking uncontrollably as police took her into custody.
Officers recovered the syringe, as well as two packages of MiraLax, which is a laxative, from her purse, court documents say.
She told police that the MiraLax was for her, and that she only fed her child water with the syringe to try to help him gain weight, the complaint said.
Testing later conducted on the syringe at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension determined that the liquid inside of it was MiraLax.
A subsequent search of her phone revealed several Internet searches related to overdosing on the laxative and other medical concerns involving babies, including searches for “MiraLax overdose,” “Can a doctor tell if you overdose on MiraLax,” “How to make a baby really sick,” “Mom gets 20 years to life for poisoning son with salt,” “Salt child death,” and “How to make a baby vomit,” court documents say.
A medical report on the baby noted that his “poor weight gain” during his hospitalization was likely due to his mother “denying him nutrition through a combination of disconnecting/diverting his feeds and administering water.”
It went on to say that the infant’s prolonged weight issues were likely caused by “inflicted starvation,” and that the boy suffered a seizure during his hospitalization that appeared to be caused by hyponatremia, which can be caused from drinking too much water, the criminal complaint said.
Doctors believed Kafer both “falsified” and “induced” symptoms of illness in her son and used doctors “as a weapon to inflict harm on him.”
The child underwent “numerous procedures and surgeries” because of it, court documents say.
Kafer’s parental rights have since been terminated, the criminal complaint said.
But Kafer’s husband, Jacob Kafer, said Monday that his wife’s parental rights have not been terminated and that his family is working hard to be reunited. The couple has two children, he said.
“We are trying to get the family back together in a way that is safe and healthy for everyone,” he said.
Since the incidents took place at Children’s Hospital, Jacob Kafer said his wife has started working with a counselor and is taking medication.
“Everything is moving in the right direction,” he said.
He added that it is still not clear what mental health diagnosis is right for his wife, but acknowledged that she has struggled in recent months.
He does not think she suffers from Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome, Jacob Kafer said, though he noted he works as an engineer and has no training in psychology. The syndrome is one in which someone, usually a parent, hurts another person or causes illness to gain sympathy for themselves, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“I am not saying there wasn’t an issue, there definitely was ... I just don’t think it’s (Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome),” Jacob Kafer said. “My wife was definitely not in a proper mental state, but to the extreme that they make it out to be and have laid out in the complaint, its not quite like that,” he said.
Jacob Kafer noted that he recently regained full physical and legal custody of his children, and hopes his wife will as well soon. He added that they intend to fight the charges facing her in court.
Kafer graduated from Winona State University in 2016.
A news article written about her in the Winona Daily News around that time highlighted her past struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder after her involvement in a fatal car accident years prior.
The article said Kafer had turned to self-harming behaviors and medication after the crash until she got a service dog.
She is charged with one count of felony-level child endangerment that could result in substantial harm or death. She is scheduled to appear in court on the charge in mid-December.