Plymouth couple facing charges from 2015 child neglect case make court appearances

A metro area mother and father both charged with child neglect in a 2015 case in the death of their 7-year-old son have returned to Minnesota, years after leaving the state for New Zealand.

Timothy David Johnson was in Hennepin County District Court just a few days ago. Now his wife, Sarah Nicole Johnson, has also made her first court appearance virtually. Her next court date will be Aug. 4.

The family made headlines when the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office charged them in 2016 for failing to provide proper medical care for their dying child, and allegedly, opting for home remedies and prayer instead.

Public online records confirm Timothy Johnson was booked into the Hennepin County Jail last week. The now 45-year-old dad, charged with child neglect for the March 2015 death of his young son in Plymouth, spent less than 24 hours behind bars.

The Johnson’s case exploded in news headlines across the globe, as far away as New Zealand, when they failed to show for their scheduled court hearings half-a-dozen years ago. New Zealand is where the Johnsons moved after the death of their son before prosecutors filed the gross misdemeanor charges alleging the parents failed to provide the boy with proper medical care.

Troubling charges 

The charges lay out a tragic death authorities believe was preventable with proper intervention. 

Court records indicate the Johnsons had adopted the boy out of foster care several years earlier, but following an autopsy, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office determined the child’s cause of death was acute pancreatitis and possible sepsis.

Prosecutors alleged the Johnsons were aware of the boy’s failing health condition including bruises, breaks all over his skin and eventually listlessness, but failed to take him for professional medical care. The complaint states, "they (the parents) had issues going to doctors," concerned a doctor would put their son on medications, instead preferring their own research.

The Johnsons also told investigators they increased their son’s vitamin intake when his condition deteriorated and treated the visible wound with Neosporin and "medical honey." They then prayed for his health the night before he died in their home on March 30, 2015.

It would take prosecutors nearly two years to file the charges against the Johnsons, but by then, they had already left Minnesota and were living in New Zealand. It does not appear the couple made any court hearings and arrest warrants, though issued, never executed, with the family thousands of miles away on another continent.

Their attorneys have maintained the couple did not "flee" – explaining in court filings, they thought the case would never be prosecuted, so they left the country with their other children in good faith. Law enforcement sources involved in the case at the time tell FOX 9 they were always skeptical of that explanation.

But it’s still not clear what has seemingly brought the Johnsons back to Minnesota. 

No one involved in the case is commenting on the record, including the Hennepin County Attorney’s office and the Johnsons' listed attorneys.

For his part, Timothy Johnson signed an extradition waiver last week before being allowed to leave jail without posting any bail. That means he can be returned to Minnesota anytime to make future court appearances.

Meanwhile, Sarah has her own Hennepin County court appearance on the calendar later this week.