ORONO, Minn. (KMSP) - Authorities have identified the mother who hanged herself and her son in the basement of their home in Orono, Minnesota on Monday.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner determined Gina Summers, 46, died of suicide by ligature hanging around 9 p.m. on Monday night. Her son, five-year-old Jude Summers-Sandburg, also died of a ligature hanging. His death was ruled a homicide.
Orono police officers discovered Summers and her son during a welfare check at their home on 2200 block of Bayview Place on Monday night.
Police had been asked to do a welfare check earlier in the day after Summers failed to show up for a custody exchange with the boy’s father. An officer responded to the home around 4 p.m. and no one answered the door. They left without entering the home because they did not have information that indicated the child was at risk.
Officers returned to the home for a second welfare check after 8 p.m. with keys provided to them by a family member. They found the mother and son in the basement.
According to the Kathryn Engman, the attorney for Jude's father, Jeffry Sandberg, he and Summers had a joint custody of their son with equal parenting time.
Engman submitted a statement on behalf of Sandberg:
"One week ago, Jeffry Sandberg was fishing in the Boundary Waters with his sons, 5-year old Jude and Nico Sandberg, and Grandpa Sandberg. Today he is planning the funeral for Jude, murdered by his mother, Gina Summers, when he was getting ready for his first day of Ready Start Kindergarten. The storyline printed or broadcast so far needs to be clarified, as the case has been characterized as being a custody battle. That is inaccurate. Custody was determined following a two-day Trial in November, 2015. The mother, since the onset of the case in January, 2015 when she falsely accused the father of domestic abuse, never missed an opportunity to disrupt the established father-son relationship, both inside and outside of the Family Court paternity proceedings. Her actions and inactions, including her scheduling of multiple Motions before the Court, not only before but also after the Trial, and subsequently to the Court of Appeals, and her absolute refusal to participate in ordered mediation traumatized Father and his entire family over the last 2 1/2 years.
Make no mistake, the Family Court recognized early on in the case the need for Father to play an integral part in Jude's life - in order to serve his best interests - resulting in an award of joint legal and joint physical custody of Jude with equal parenting time; and the determination of September 1, 2017 that Jude would begin school on September 5, 2017.
Mr. Sandberg intends to do what he can to ensure that Jude’s life was not wasted, by working with Legislators and the Courts to add to the current body of Family Law statutes, to require more comprehensive mental health testing when facts indicate such a need.
The family and friends of Jude Sandberg are experiencing pain and grief beyond measure, and request privacy and space – and prayers – at this time."
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner and Orono Police Department are continuing to investigate.