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Foster Parents Charged With Murder After Malnourished Toddler Found Dead, Wrapped In Blankets

The 3-year-old was allegedly left wrapped in blankets to keep her from moving for five hours. Her nourishment level had been declining for months, prosecutors say. 

By Will Huntsberry
7 Facts About Child Abuse and Prevention

A Minnesota couple who had been foster-parenting a toddler for more than a year is charged with the girl’s murder after wrapping her in three blankets and leaving her unattended for at least five hours, prosecutors say.

Sherrie Dirk, 33, and Bryce Dirk, 31, were arrested last week for first-degree murder “with past pattern of child abuse” for the November 2017 death of their foster child in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com.

The young girl, referred to only as “A.H.” in court filings, was severely dehydrated at the time of her death, according to a medical examiner. Further investigation also revealed that she became extremely malnourished during 13 months in the Dirk family's care; her body weight dropped from the 98th percentile to the 13th percentile over that time, a court filing alleges.

Four other children also lived with the Dirks: another three-year-old, who was the biological child of Sherrie and Bryce Dirk, plus three other children from Sherrie Dirk's past relationships, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors allege a pattern of neglect in the Dirks’ care of their foster child.

According to a court petition that would permanently revoke the Dirks’ parental rights for all four children, they left baby A.H. in the care of their 7-year-old on one occasion. On another, they left Sherrie Dirk’s 15-year-old daughter in charge of both 3-year-old children. They told the 15-year-old that if she left the house she should take the Dirks’ biological child with her, but that she should “put the gate up” and leave baby A.H., according to the court petition.

On Nov. 6, 2017, Sherrie Dirk allegedly wrapped three blankets around baby A.H. before leaving the house at about mid-day. She wrapped one around the toddler’s legs, another around her torso and the third around both before shutting the child in a bedroom, according to the petition. The other children in the home told investigators that both of the Dirks had wrapped other young children like this in the past, the petition noted.

Bryce Dirk was at home working, but did not go to check on the child until sometime in the evening, the petition states. When he did, he found her not breathing with one of the blankets wrapped around the child’s neck. When emergency workers arrived they found the child already in rigor mortis, according to the petition.

The Dirks gave “suspicious and conflicting” reports of what happened that day, according to the petition. However, they did both admit no one had checked on the child in at least five hours, according to the petition.

All four children were removed from the home after baby A.H. died and the petition to revoke the Dirks’ parental rights would make the children eligible for adoption if it is granted.

Prosecutors planned to seek a $2 million dollar bond for Sherrie and Bryce Dirk.

[Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office]