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Cloquet man faces felony child abuse charge

Two Cloquet children were removed from their home Nov. 9 during an investigation into abuse by the mother’s husband.

Travis Dean Thrun, 22, is faced with a felony charge related to the suspected abuse of a 2-year-old. A 5-year-old also removed from the home has been listed as a witness in the case.

A criminal complaint filed by the Cloquet Police Department alleges Thrun had repeatedly blamed the 5-year-old for injuries inflicted on the younger child.

Thrun faces additional misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges of domestic assault and child neglect, respectively. The felony charge of third-degree assault of a victim under 4 carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Thrun will appear before Judge Rebekka Stumme in an online omnibus hearing in Carlton County District Court at 9:15 a.m. Monday.

According to the criminal complaint, witnesses, including other caregivers, reported the 2-year-old suffered through a series of three strangulation events, as well as a weeks-old cut to his anus that Thrun had superglued and explained was the result of “rough wiping.”

Thrun denied to authorities that he sexually assaulted the child, but a medical exam performed Nov. 10 found concern “for both physical and sexual abuse.”

According to the criminal complaint, Thrun repeatedly dissuaded his spouse from seeking medical care for the 2-year-old, while often reporting to his spouse that the older child was responsible for the incidents. Thrun once told the mother that the older child had strangled the 2-year-old by “putting [their] foot into [the child’s] mouth.” In another incident, Thrun reported he’d found the older child with a knee on the 2-year-old’s chest. In yet another, Thrun said he found the older child sitting on the younger one.

In a statement with police, Thrun said, “I’m [messed] up,” while admitting to causing the injuries to the 2-year-old.

In one admission, Thrun said “he dropped [the child] on purpose out of anger” on Oct. 31, after he’d been carrying the 2-year-old at shoulder level. The child hit their head and back on the floor and quit breathing for multiple seconds. Thrun said he performed CPR on the child and attempted to call 911 prior to the child’s resuscitation. The older child witnessed it happen, and Thrun sent the older child to their room and closed the door. After the child regained consciousness, Thrun cuddled with the child on the bed, later telling his spouse the older child had strangled the 2-year-old, while dissuading the mother from taking the child to the hospital. Thrun later told police the child was limp and could not stand, and that he should have gone immediately to the hospital, suspecting head trauma.

When dropping the children off at daycare/school on Nov. 1, the mother told providers that the 2-year-old had momentarily “died last night and quit breathing.”

Following that incident, the couple took the child to urgent care two days later, but did not report the fall or the child being “groggy or dying,” seeking help with only the injury to the boy’s anus. Once there, Thrun described additional injuries to the 2-year-old’s penis by saying he’d intended to pull the child closer in the bathtub by grabbing his thigh and inadvertently “pulled on the penis, and felt or heard it pop,” causing the boy to cry.

In his statement to police, Thrun said he made up a strangulation story to cover up for hurting the 2-year-old by dropping him. He stated he was trying to put the children down for a nap and they were not listening.

“This made him mad,” the complaint said.

Thrun is no longer in Carlton County Jail, where he’d been held earlier this month. Thrun paid 10 percent of his $75,000 bail, or $7,500, and must meet several conditions during his release, including avoiding bars, not possessing firearms and obtaining a diagnostic assessment.

The complaint also notes injuries to the child’s toe, and bruises on his body.

The case against Thrun remains under investigation, and the mother is cooperating with authorities. She has said that she is the mother of both children and that the four of them live together in Cloquet. She said Thrun had been “in charge of administering medications, the majority of diaper changes, and bath time.”

She also spoke to police about her relationship to Thrun, who she alleges would strangle her during intercourse and “occasionally at random times during the day.”

She and others, including staff members at a local child care provider, told police they had never seen the older child act aggressively toward the 2-year-old.

Thrun denied ever assaulting the older child, explaining to police it was because “in his [messed] up mind, he knows [the older child] has the words and ability to tell others if [they are] abused and [the 2-year-old] does not.”

The case against Thrun was initiated by Carlton County Public Health and Human Services on Nov. 8, originating through a mandatory reporter the mother had confided in. Cloquet Police were made aware of the maltreatment report on Nov. 9.

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