UPDATE: West Fargo daycare provider pleads not guilty to abuse and neglect charges

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 5:22 PM CST|Updated: Jul. 25, 2023 at 6:27 PM CDT
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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - A West Fargo woman who was arrested and charged after a more than 7-month long investigation of claims of neglect and abuse of young children, has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against her.

42-year-old Miranda Sorlie is charged in Cass County Court with three felony counts of child abuse, as well as six felony counts of child neglect. Sorlie entered a not guilty plea for all 9 charges on July 21, 2023.

West Fargo Police say Sorlie’s arrest in January of 2023 happened with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service High Plains Fugitive Task Force. Court documents state the incidents involve four different children all under the age of two, and state the alleged incidents happened between Jan. 2020 and May 2022.

West Fargo Police were first alerted to suspected child abuse and neglect by Sorlie in early May 2022 when the family of a one-year-old boy stated the child received injuries while in Sorlie’s care. After getting home from daycare in early May, the child’s father noticed bruising on the boy’s ear, as well as marks on top of the scalp, arms and feet. When the child’s family contacted Sorlie, court documents state Sorlie did not know where the marks came from and suggested they may have been self-inflicted.

The one-year-old child was taken to Sanford Hospital to have his injuries evaluated. Court documents state Dr. Jada Ingalls diagnosed the injuries as being consistent with being pinched and getting an open-hand slap, and stated she had concerns about other children who attended the daycare.

A Cass County social worker soon attempted a home visit at Sorlie’s West Fargo twin house, but documents say Sorlie didn’t answer the door. Sorlie agreed to have a home interview with police detectives on May 11, but documents state the day before, Sorlie told police she didn’t feel comfortable with an interview at her home and did not answer or return any phone calls from police.

One week later, police and a Cass County social worker tried to interview Sorlie at her home. Court documents say Sorlie closed the garage door and refused to answer the door when she saw the two walking up her driveway.

Around the same time, another parent contacted police stating they were trying to pick up their child from Sorlie’s daycare, but stated she wasn’t answering the door. Police responded and Sorlie eventually came to the door. Documents state Sorlie apologized and stated she and the children were taking a nap, and stated she didn’t hear the knocking.

Later in the day, documents say police were contacted by another family after they noticed one of their young daughters’ diapers hadn’t been changed all day. Documents say this child also had bruising on the back of her neck, as well as a laceration and bruise on her cheek.

Court documents say Dr. Ingalls reviewed each child that attended Sorlie’s daycare and verified physical abuse and neglect. A second boy around 1-year-old was found to have multiple unexplained bruisings which was concerning as the child was not walking or crawling, court documents state. The child also had an unexplained and concerning cut on the back of his neck.

“Everybody that’s been around children, that’s raised children recognizes that things happen at times but then when things keep happening and they happen also to others, then you have to stand up and take a look and see, ‘Ok, is there more of a pattern here than just a couple one-off events?’” Cass County Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Younggren said.

Dr. Ingalls was ‘extremely concerned’ about the neglect of a second female child, court documents state. Dr. Ingalls stated the child was ‘failing to thrive while they attended Sorlie’s daycare.’ The child’s failure to thrive was a direct result of not being properly fed which led to a stunt of her growth, documents allege. Dr. Ingalls stated since the child has left Sorlie’s care, she is no longer failing to thrive and is growing as normal.

“You can’t raise a child on your own. In today’s modern world it’s very difficult to do that,” Younggren said. “When we drop children off at certain places, we expect them to come back in the condition we left them or at least in an explainable way if they’re not. We don’t expect people to be perfect, that’s for sure, but there’s a responsibility that people bare and that’s really what this case is about.”

The West Fargo Police Department began it’s investigation into Sorlie in May 2022 regarding the ‘unauthorized sale of a mother’s breastmilk from an unlicensed home daycare in West Fargo.’ Cass County Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Younggren told Valley News Live Tuesday those claims were unsubstantiated.

Messages to Sorlie prior to her arrest went unanswered. A Cass County judge set Sorlie’s bail at 10% of $5,000 and jail records state Sorlie bailed out a short time later.

If convicted of the most serious charges, Sorlie faces up to 10 years in prison. Court records show her next court appearance is scheduled for August 30, 2023.

Younggren says it’s unclear if there are more victims to be discovered. Officials say if your child attended Sorlie’s daycare and you have concerns, you’re urged to contact West Fargo Police at their tipline 701-515-5333 or you can email them at WFPDTips@westfargond.gov.