It’s been nearly four months since Cottrell Short was found unresponsive inside his St. Bonifacious home. On Thursday Minnetrista police and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek announced the arrest of two suspects in connection with the toddler’s death.
Shacara Foster, the boy’s mother, and her boyfriend Kentae Todd, 20, both now face second-degree murder and child neglect charges. Foster was already incarcerated in the Hennepin County jail on neglect charges, and Todd was arrested without incident in Coon Rapids Thursday morning. Both are expected to make their first court appearance in the coming days.
Cottrell Short had been to the pediatrician exactly one month before his death, passing his infant development inventory and declared healthy by his physician.
According to formal criminal complaints against Foster and Todd, which were made public Thursday, the 19-month-old boy endured a horrific next 30 days.
“Cottrell was a desperately ill, battered and injured child,” Sheriff Stanek said. “Like most of you, I have two kids of my own, and words fail me at this time. They absolutely fail me."
Dr. Lindsey Thomas conducted the autopsy on Cottrell Short. Her report detailed a wide range of injuries to the boy’s body, from cigarette burns on his feet to no fewer than a half dozen broken bones. Ruled a homicide, cause of death was determined to be complications from neglect—specifically sepsis, or a blood infection.
In addition to a severe burn on his right hand, Dr. Thomas also found his right wrist to have very recently been fractured. She also reported finding internal bleeding in both the brain and abdomen, which she said was caused by blunt force trauma. Fractures of the skull, ribs, arm and leg were also found in various stages of healing.
A multitude of scratches and bruises were also found on Cottrell's body, including his genitals and buttocks. In addition, toxicology results revealed high levels of medication consistent with a strong adult cold medicine.
“We already knew this little boy died a horrible death, and we knew he suffered abuse prior to his death,” Minnetrista Police Chief Paul Falls said. “But the abuse is even worse than previously described. I’ve been in law enforcement for 18 years, and I can tell you this is probably the most horrific thing I’ve seen.”
Falls went on to say police had been called to the home "several" times prior to the night of Cottrell’s death, although he declined to elaborate on the specific nature of those calls or the exact number of times police had been to the residence in recent months.
When emergency responders arrived on the night of Feb. 10 they found the home littered with garbage, rotting food, animals, dead animals, animal waste and “otherwise filthy conditions.”
“There were very, very deplorable conditions inside the home,” detective Kip Carver said Thursday.
At least 16 people were present at the time, although exactly how many of them were living in the home is unclear. An unspecified number of children, ranging in age from infant to teenager, were taken into protective custody and have since been placed with family members. None of them showed any signs of abuse.
As for the delay in formal charges being filed, both Chief Falls and Sheriff Stanek said every available resource had been made available in the case and compiling evidence took time. The autopsy alone wasn’t completed until April 27.
“This is a very complex case involving a number of people,” Falls said. “So putting all of the pieces together took some time. It was extremely important that we were thorough and did things right.”
Cottrell Short’s biological father lives in Minnesota and has been actively updated on the case’s status since his son’s death.
Both Foster and Todd face up to 40 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder charges and given the maximum penalty. The gross misdemeanor child neglect charges carry with them up to a year in prison.