BRECKENRIDGE, Minn. — The girlfriend of the Breckenridge man sentenced to 25 years for murder in the death of his toddler son has been charged with manslaughter and child neglect.
Ramona Louise Shortman, 24, is accused of permitting ongoing abuse that led to the death of 3-year-old Winter Sky Barker in April 2018 and failing to provide appropriate care and supervision for the boy and other children in her care.
Barker was living with his mother up until January 2018, but his father, 36-year-old Tracy Norman Brant, was awarded full custody after she was jailed, according to charging documents. Barker moved into his father’s Breckenridge apartment, where Shortman and two young children lived.
Months later, authorities would arrive at the family’s apartment to find the boy dead with blunt force injuries. According to court documents filed in connection to Brant's trial for murder, Shortman told police the boy was covered in bruises and had bumps on his head, but was fine the day before.
The evening before his death, Barker had been showing signs that he was seriously ill, documents said. He had been vomiting repeatedly and appeared weak. Investigators said Shortman recalled Barker "pointing to his tummy and saying 'hurt.' "
Shortman believed the boy might have been experiencing the 24-hour flu and put him to bed on a couch with garbage bags pulled over the cushions, documents said.
The next morning, Shortman went to a WIC appointment, but did not check on the boy before she left, documents said. She later admitted to investigators that she should have done so.
When police responded to the apartment, they found Brant performing chest compressions on Barker, who had no pulse and was not breathing, according to court documents.
An autopsy found that Barker died of chemical peritonitis that had resulted from his stomach being perforated from blunt-force trauma. Investigators deemed the death a homicide.
According to the autopsy report, the boy had fractures in his rib cage that would have caused him chronic pain and indicated a pattern of abuse. Shortman told investigators that she was aware of Brant spanking his children but said in an interview that he did not hit them hard enough to break ribs and did not believe Brant was responsible for Barker's death.
Shortman was booked in the Wilkin County Jail Monday, Jan. 13, and was being held there Wednesday night. She faces two counts each of manslaughter and child neglect. A warrant for her arrest was issued in December.
If convicted of manslaughter, Shortman could face up to 10 years in prison. Child neglect is a gross misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $3,000.