MEEKER COUNTY, Minn. (FOX 9) - A child is dead, eight years after he was allegedly shaken and abused as a baby. His death was recently declared a homicide, and now authorities have opened a murder investigation as his adopted mother fights for justice.
"It's like he doesn't exist," an emotional Carrie Edberg told FOX 9’s Paul Blume. "And that is what's so frustrating because this child did exist."
Edberg, who lives in Sherburne County, adopted her son Leo as a toddler with enormous medical issues from an apparent traumatic brain injury he suffered at approximately four months old.
"I fell in love right away. Yeah. The minute I got to hold him, I was like, this is my son. I am taking him home," said Edberg, who has a passion for tending to the most vulnerable and in need. She first met the troubled boy at 2 years old and formally adopted him approximately one year later having no idea about his life expectancy.
"He was fierce in his way, but he was just so sweet. He was just the most loving kid. He just loved the little things in life. And he loved to be cuddled and held. You just, he was a happy kid," said Edberg, who cherished every single day, every little step of development the boy could muster, from his sweet response to music to his schooling.
"People knew that he was blind and they would come and touch his hand. And it was just the whole school. All the kids in that Zimmerman Elementary School just knew who he was and they took him in as a regular peer. It was really neat to see."
Leo, who was known by a different name at birth, was blind, partially deaf, non-mobile, unable to communicate and struggled with seizures and other health challenges. Child protection court filings at the time referred to his condition as "consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome," requiring "full care for the rest of his life" with "likely no meaningful social interactions."
Leo Edberg passed away in October 2022 at the age of 8. At the time, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner determined the injuries he suffered as a baby caused his death. The office's public data report states the cause of death was, "infectious complications of blunt force craniocerebral injuries." The manner of death was classified as homicide, "decendent injured by another person."
"I would like to have justice. Ultimately, that would be the great goal," said Edberg.
After months of phone calls to multiple jurisdictions, and her own pressure campaign that involved FOX 9 asking questions last week, Edberg just learned Leo’s death is now an open, active murder investigation. In the city of Litchfield in Meeker County.
"This child was not put in a safe environment from day one," Edberg stated while looking over all the court documents and public records she has gathered involving her son's case.
Those records establish that the child was born with drugs in his system. That prompted Carver County Health and Human Services to step in to monitor child's safety and well being. And then at approximately four months, the boy suffered the severe brain injury while his birth mom was apparently living in unstable, unsafe conditions with friends in Litchfield. Ultimately, the birth parents signed off on giving up their full rights to the boy.
But nowhere in all the files does it indicate anyone was held criminally responsible for the baby’s life-altering injuries at the time. One clue though, may be found in a handwritten note Edberg claims she received from the birth mom years ago. FOX 9 cannot independently confirm the notes' authenticity, but key names, dates, and other details match with public files reviewed by the newsroom.
One paragraph reads, "During my addiction, I made several poor choices which ultimately enabled abuse to happen to my son. The person who hurt him is a drug user and a very poor choice of the type of person any child should be around."
"Ultimately, jail is the punishment for this. This is a homicide. This is beating a child so bad that they died," Edberg told Blume. "And it's not fair. This child's life was taken from him and this person is living like nothing ever happened."
The Meeker County Attorney's office confirmed no one has ever been charged for the boy's life-altering injuries. Prosecutors would not provide an explanation why. Litchfield Police Chief Patrick Fank told FOX 9, a case file was forwarded for charging review nearly a decade ago. Adding, now that it is a murder investigation, a detective is getting up to speed on the case.
"As with any case, if new information becomes available pertaining to a crime, we will work with our law enforcement partners to review the information," read a statement from the office of Meeker County Attorney Brandi Schiefelbein.
The child's birth mom, who FOX 9 is not publicly identifying at this point, told Blume in a brief phone conversation that there is much more to the story than anyone knows, adding it was a very long time ago.