Sawyer County authorities have filed felony neglect of children charges against a Radisson woman and her boyfriend after sheriff’s deputies found seven children under age 18 residing in their home in filthy conditions on May 23, without a parent present. The pair also is charged with possessing methamphetamine.
Heather Anne Gortemoller, 40, 3770N Ogilvie Avenue, is charged with one count of neglecting a child resulting in emotional damage from May 23, 2018 to May 23, 2019, one count of neglecting a child under six years of age and five counts of neglecting children where specified harm did not occur from Feb. 1-May 23, 2019.
Gortemoller also is charged with delivery of 3 grams or less of methamphetamine on May 5, possession of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and a controlled substance (Gabapentin) with intent to distribute on May 24 in Radisson.
Jeffery Sterling Splain Jr., 20, same address as Gortemoller, is charged with felony party to neglect of a child resulting in emotional damage Feb. 1-May 23 in Radisson, five counts of party to neglecting a child where specified harm did not occur and one count of party to neglecting a child under six years of age where specified harm did not occur on May 23, 2019, possession of methamphetamine, felony possession of a controlled substance (Gabapentin) with intent to distribute, felony and misdemeanor bail jumping, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to the charges, sheriff’s deputies responded to the residence on May 23 after the father of the children, who does not live there, requested a welfare check.
Deputies were let into the home at 11:32 p.m. by a 17-year-old boy. A deputy said when he walked in, “the smell of rotten garbage, feces, urine, food and animals was overpowering. The garbage bags were stacked up along the entry hallway, clearly rotting. I observed two children playing on a tablet in the dining room, one child sleeping on the living room sofa, another 16-year-old and another child on the sofa. The living room and kitchen were a complete mess and it appeared nothing had been cleaned in a long time.”
The deputy stated the children’s “current welfare seemed okay despite the conditions,” but added, “I believe the home itself is not healthy for anyone, much less seven children, all of whom were being cared for by a 17-year-old child.”
The children were 3, 5, 8, 11, 12, 14 and 17 years old and none were attending school, according to the complaint. The home had a non-working sink and toilet and there was feces on the floor, as well as “dirty dishes all over,” the deputy said. He termed the living situation “disgusting and unhealthy.”
A child said they saw Gortemoller and Splain injecting needles in their arms. A boy said random people would show up at the house at weird times of the day for no apparent reason, then leave. A deputy recognized some names provided as being involved in narcotics.
The deputy stated there is one small, dirty bedroom in the home, and most of the kids sleep on the living room floor on “disgusting and thin mattresses and living room couch, which is more than dangerous and risky with known drug users coming in and out of the small home at all hours.”
Deputies arrested Gortemoller and Splain when they visited the probation and parole office in Hayward on May 24. Splain was placed on a probation hold. Gortemoller turned over a meth pipe which she had in her bra to a sheriff’s deputy.
Officers obtained a search warrant for the Ogilvie Avenue residence as well as Splain’s parents’ residence at N4796 Hwy. G in the town of Ojibwa, where Splain resided on weekends.
Officers and Sawyer County Child Protective Services (CPS) workers located the seven children in the Ogilvie Avenue residence, and CPS workers interviewed the children and found placement for them, according to the narrative.
Officers entered Gortemoller and Splain’s locked bedroom at the house and found a small amount of meth, 82 Gabapentin pills and marijuana paraphernalia. At the Hwy. G residence, officers located a dry marijuana plant, marijuana and meth paraphernalia.
Gortemoller was placed on a $5,000 signature bond and had her initial court appearance on the drug charges June 7. Her initial court appearance on the child neglect charges is set for July 9. Conditions of her bond include no contact with any of her children unless approved by the Dept. of Health and Human Services, participating in the Sawyer Addiction Intervention Program, maintaining absolute sobriety with daily testing to ensure compliance, no possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages or entry into premises where alcohol is served, and no drug use without a valid prescription.
Splain was placed on a $2,500 signature bond and had his initial court appearance June 4. Conditions of his bond include absolute sobriety, daily testing for drugs, and no contact with any person under age 18. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 13.