Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff reports
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Man charged with murder of toddler


Jonathan Loun faces murder charges in the death of a Sandstone 3-year-old.

A Sandstone toddler who turned 3 years old on Thursday died on Saturday following a horrific beating from the hands of a man who was living with a woman in Sandstone's Townhome Apartments, according to charging documents.

Jonathan Loun, 31, was arrested in the case. On Thursday he was originally charged with assault in the first degree and malicious punishment of a child. Those charges were upgraded to second-degree murder when the child died on Saturday.

Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson will be asking the court for the maximum sentence, 40 years in prison, if Loun is convicted, noting that this was the second death he was responsible for in the county in the last 10 years.

In November 2005, Loun was charged in Pine County for criminal vehicular homicide. He was driving home a friend from Wisconsin back to Hinckley, according to court records, but his friend, Ricky Lamorie, wanted to walk the rest of the way home. In that case, Loun said he drove away but came back to find him and accidentally struck him with his car, killing him.

In that case, he was sentenced to 41 months in prison and discharged in March of 2010.

Last week, a 911 call was placed by the mother, Jessie Carr, from her apartment at 500 Eisenhower Street at 7:25 a.m. on Tuesday after she returned home from work to find her son, Dante Sears, was severely assaulted, bleeding from the mouth and nose, and unresponsive. She reported that her boyfriend, Loun, had assaulted the toddler. Within five minutes, deputies and first responders from Essentia Health Sandstone were on the scene.

Loun left a note on the wall, charging documents say, that said he snapped after the toddler urinated on him. "I banged his head on the floor ... He's not OK ... I'm done with life ... all I do is hurt people."

At 8:30 p.m. the previous evening, the mother put the child to bed and left for work at Grand Casino Hinckley just after 10.

Near midnight, she received a text message from Loun showing a photo of Dante with his face on the floor and Dante's foot resting on the outside of the crib. The mother sent text messages back with concern, but Loun responded that the situation was fine. Also in the home was Dante's 7-year-old brother.

Loun was not at the home when the mother arrived home. The toddler was transported from Essentia Health-Sandstone to Minneapolis Children's Hospital by helicopter. A CT scan revealed bleeding within the skull, outside of the brain and significant swelling of the brain. Dr. Alice Swenson noted these injuries, along with a penile injury and bruising around the neck, as severe child abuse.

"The type of force required to cause these injuries is far beyond what would be appropriate in the routine care of a child. The amount of force required to cause brain injury and extra-axial bleeding is extremely violent, such that an observer would know that the actions would cause harm to the child," Swenson noted in her report.

She further stated the injuries are also seen when an infant is thrown or shaken. After the assault, the toddler "likely spent some time with a severe brain injury and subsequent hypoxia due to decreased respiratory effort ... This hypoxia caused more extensive brain injury."

Even if Dante were able to survive, Swenson said he would have severe long-term deficits. He was placed on life support pending organ donation and died on Saturday morning. On Sunday, the medical examiner conducted an autopsy and ruled Dante's death a homicide due to blunt force injury to the head.

Both the Pine County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension collected evidence at the apartment. According to court records, human blood was discovered on the ceiling of the apartment.

Authorities learned that Loun may have left the scene for his sister's house, which is located on Sunny Hill Road in Brook Park. Loun's sister stated she picked up Loun at 5:30 a.m. so he could babysit her own kids when she went to work. Deputies conducted a grid search in the woods around the home and just before 5 p.m., he was found in a wooded area a half mile from the residence. Loun had a knife and self-inflicted knife wounds on his arm. The suspect was uncooperative with law enforcement but was eventually taken into custody. The suspect was transported to the hospital for treatment of his injuries, and then to the county jail.

The case has brought community outrage against this child abuse and also has affected those who work on child protection issues in the county. Health and Human Services offices in Pine City and Sandstone both marked his birthday, with the blessings of Dante's family, and released balloons in his honor.

A Facebook event was also held in Dante's honor asking everyone to light a candle on Thursday to "celebrate his birthday and light a path for his journey to heaven to be God's special angel."

Loun has an extensive criminal history, according to Minnesota online records.

There have been 23 different cases against Loun since 2003 in 11 different counties. In 2014 he was charged with two different counts involving domestic abuse, and in 2013 he was charged with possessing drugs.

A benefit account has been set up to pay for medical bills and the funeral at Lake State Credit Union under Dustin Sears, the boy's father.

A fundraiser has also been set up for the family to cover medical bills and funeral costs. It is under the name Dante Sears/Jessie Carr. As of Monday, more than $6,000 has been given.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, September 4, at Sandstone Evangelical Free Church. A visitation will be at Methven Funeral Home on Thursday, September 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. along with one hour prior to the Friday service.


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