Seth Johnson, age 7, died of acute pancreatitis and possible sepsis because his parents, Timothy David Johnson and Sarah Nicole Johnson, did not take him to a doctor. Seth’s six siblings, including a 16-year-old brother, were not reported to be abused. Seth was homeschooled.
Seth came to live with the Johnsons as a foster child in 2011. In 2012 the Johnsons adopted him and began homeschooling him. His last medical exam occurred in 2013 and was unremarkable. The Johnsons subsequently claimed that Seth had been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and reactive attachment disorder, but that they had rejected this diagnosis and self-diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. There was no record of any such diagnosis for Seth. According to his parents, several weeks before his death in March 2015, Seth “stopped sleeping, would shake on occasion” and began hurting himself. According to a criminal complaint, when he was found, Seth was underweight and “had bruising on his cheek, forearms, chest, buttocks, and lower abdomen. [He] also had two large lesions on the back of each heel that were consistent with pressure ulcers. Pressure ulcers would not typically be present if a child is mobile.” The Johnsons did not take Seth to a doctor, instead treating him with prayer, Neosporin, and “medical honey”. While the Johnsons were out of town for a wedding, Seth’s 16-year-old brother cared for him and reported that “Seth stopped talking and couldn’t get out of bed.” When the Johnsons arrived home, Seth was unresponsive; they still did not take him to a doctor. The next morning he was dead.
The Johnsons were charged with child neglect after a yearlong investigation in which authorities were unable to find evidence of a more serious crime.
Date: March 30, 2015
Location: Plymouth, Minnesota