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Cloquet woman faces child abuse charges

The Carlton County Attorney's Office charged Nicole Ammesmaki with three counts of malicious punishment of a child, which are gross misdemeanors.

File: Carlton County Jail aerial
The Carlton County Courthouse (left) and jail in Carlton. Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Pine Journal

CARLTON — Criminal charges have been filed against a Cloquet woman involved in a Carlton County child abuse case, as well as a teacher at Fond du Lac Head Start for failing to report suspected mistreatment of a child.

The charges were filed Thursday, March 24, by Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola, who said in a statement that Nicole Ammesmaki faces three counts of malicious punishment of a child. The maximum sentence for each of the gross misdemeanor charges is one year in prison, a $3,000 fine or both. The Pine Journal is naming the woman because criminal charges have been filed in the case.

According to the criminal complaint, the Cloquet Police Department interviewed a child who had lived in Ammesmaki's home for nine months and alleged the woman would become upset with and abuse the children. The alleged abuse included leaving a child who had toilet accidents outside all day in only a diaper, which left him with sunburn, and using a metal spatula to hit the child after he was sunburned, the complaint said.

Police interviewed Ammesmaki and she admitted to grabbing one of the children's necks, but said it was an isolated incident, according to the criminal complaint.

Ketola said Minnesota law allows parents or legal guardians to use reasonable force to restrain or correct a child, but the charges reflect intentional acts with unreasonable force or cruel discipline.

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The allegations against a second woman involving five different children were outside the statute of limitations, which is three years, Ketola said in the statement. Because of this, Ketola said the case should serve as a reminder of the importance to report suspected child maltreatment.

As a result of the investigation, a misdemeanor charge of failing to report maltreatment of a child was filed against Kayla M. Hansen, a teacher at Fond du Lac Head Start.

According to the complaint, Hansen had seen bruises and marks on the children and made a Facebook post about it when investigations into the two women began earlier this year.

During the police department's investigation, officers received records from Head Start and spoke to Carlton County Public Health and Human Services, and found the teacher made no reports of suspected maltreatment at the time.

The criminal charges do not alter the county's position in the child protection matter, Ketola said, and criminal and child protection courts are governed by different laws and legal standards.

"The Minnesota child protection system seeks to correct conduct and prevent the breakup of the family, while criminal court seeks to hold individuals responsible for violating criminal laws," Ketola said.

The children involved in the case are still in the county's temporary custody as the child protection hearings continue.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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As reported by Carlton County District Court.