17-year-old charged in brutal death of 2-year-old in Minneapolis
Before she died as the result of physical abuse last week, 2-year-old Sophia O’ Neill suffered a torn liver, kidney and pancreas. Cuts to the inside of her stomach. A collapsed lung. Eight broken ribs.
That’s a partial list of the injuries cited by the Hennepin County medical examiner in a second-degree murder charge filed Monday against Cody Feran-Baum, 17, of Minneapolis. According to the charges, Feran-Baum kicked Sophia in the back during a fit of anger while trying “to get her to stop” crying. When that didn’t work, he laid her face down on the floor and stomped on her back.
When asked by police how hard he kicked Sophia, Feran-Baum said, “It was, it was bad,” and then added, “I kinda snapped on her,” the charges say.
Sophia died after being rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center on Wednesday, less than a day after the kicking-and-stomping incident at Feran-Baum’s grandmother’s south Minneapolis home, where he lived, and where Sophia and her mother had been staying temporarily.
The teen nervously tapped his feet as he sat with family members Monday in juvenile court. During that hearing, the judge declined to release him from detention because of the seriousness of the crime.
County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office will seek to have Feran-Baum, who will turn 18 at the end of next month, tried as an adult.
Feran-Baum’s mother, grandmother and other relatives, who shouted encouragement to him as he was taken out of the courtroom, declined to comment. His grandmother, Barbara Whetstone, has said previously that he had cared for Sophia many times and loved her, and that she never witnessed any abuse.
But his grandfather told police after Sophia’s death that the teen had never been around children and didn’t understand why a child would cry, the charges said. The grandfather said he had advised the teen to “be patient” with the girl.
In February, the child’s biological father, Max O’Neill, 22, who shared custody of Sophia with her mother, 20, showed a video of Sophia with bruises on her cheek to Hennepin County Child Protection Services, the charges say. In the video, the toddler tells her father that Feran-Baum punched her in the face. Police watched the video after her death as part of the investigation.
Child protection authorities were also alerted last year when Sophia was taken to a temporary shelter in Minneapolis because of unsafe living conditions. Child protection officials said Monday that they can’t comment on specific cases, but added that the details of Sophia’s death were hard to hear.
‘She kept screaming’
According to the charges, Feran-Baum was asked to watch Sophia in the morning on June 9 at the home in the 3800 block of 30th Avenue S. for about 90 minutes. He later told officers that at times it overwhelmed him to hear her cry and scream and be unable to shush her, the charges said.
He said he tried to stop her crying by putting her in timeout, feeding her and laying her down, but “she kept screaming and screaming.” He then put Sophia in a corner and kicked her in the back, the charges say.
An hour or two later, she was still crying and whining, he told police. He told her to stop and stepped on her back.
When the girl’s mother returned home, she asked Feran-Baum why Sophia was sick, the charges say. The girl had a fever and vomited during the night. She also complained of pain whenever she was picked up or touched.
Doctors said those symptoms were consistent with Sophia’s multiple organ failure after the assault, the charges say.
Shortly after noon on June 10, Feran-Baum ran to a neighbor’s house with Sophia in his arms. He asked to use the neighbor’s telephone. The neighbor said the girl’s head “just bounced back and forth” and her eyes were unfocused, the charges said.
The teen called 911 and Sophia was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she was resuscitated twice before dying. Doctors noted multiple injuries that were not consistent with household falls or a fall at the park.
Sophia’s mother, identified only as “S.S.” in the charges, told police she had been dating Feran-Baum for about a year and that he often watched the child.
“This was a brutal beating that is almost beyond comprehension,” Freeman said Monday.
In court Monday, Teresa Froehlke, assistant county attorney, argued that Feran-Baum shouldn’t be released from detention because he is a danger to himself and others. She also said that because he could face a long prison sentence if convicted, he should be considered a flight risk.
Bobby Joe Champion, Feran-Baum’s attorney, told the judge that Sophia’s death was horrible, but that the judge should choose electronic home monitoring instead of detention. Feran-Baum has only petty misdemeanors on his criminal record and did what he could to try to save Sophia’s life on June 10, Champion argued.
Feran-Baum had been working as a laborer so he could put food on the table and had lived at his grandmother’s house for several years without any problems, Champion said. The attorney also noted the show of support from his relatives in court. The judge declined to release him.
As he left the courtroom, Feran-Baum’s relatives shouted, “Love you, Cody” and “Love you, buddy.”