By Adam Quandt
Officers with the Orono Police Department and members of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office are continuing an investigation after a mother and child were found dead in an Orono home.
Officers performed a welfare check in the 2200 block of Bayview Place around 4 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 4, at the request of the father of a minor child that had not been returned to him, according to Orono Police Chief Correy Farniok.
When officers responded to the residence, they found the home was secure and received no answer at the door.
Farniok said that officers continued to search outside of the residence, but did not find any reason for concern. Following the check, the father – Jeffry Sandberg of Minnetonka – advised officers he would ask them to check later in the evening around the child’s bedtime.
Officers returned for a second check around 8 p.m. and were met by a family member who provided officers with keys to the residence and allowed them to check inside the home.
“Officers entered the home and found a crime scene of an apparent murder/suicide,” Farniok said during a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Upon entering the crime scene, officers found the bodies of 46-year-old Gina Summers and a 5-year-old male, later identified as Summers’ and Sandberg’s son. Farniok said that both Summers and child were hanged.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has since concluded that Summers’ manner of death was suicide and the 5-year-old’s death was declared a homicide.
Early reports by the Star Tribune characterized the case as a custody battle. However a statement from Sandberg’s attorney on his behalf said “that is inaccurate.”
Court records show cases from paternity, conciliation and conciliation appeals beginning in January 2015, with the last conciliation appeal filed on June 5, 2017.
According to the statement from Sandberg’s attorney, custody of the child was determined following a two-day trial in November 2015. The trial resulted in joint legal and joint physical custody of the child, with equal parenting time shared between Sandberg and Summers.
The statement also said that following the trial for custody, Summers accused Sandberg of domestic abuse, allegations which Sandberg’s attorney – Kathryn Engman – categorized as false.
Kare 11 reported that search warrants served at Summers’ home turned up a note found next to the bodies that spoke of domestic abuse and the legal system. The note – believed to be left by Summers – ended in the words, “Don’t let this happen to another child and mother.”
During the search, investigators also found a variety of documents in a nearby room – including bank statements, court documents, emails and mental health documents.
Summers had been working as a Realtor at Fazendin Realtors in Wayzata, where she began working at in 2014.
Summers’ work biography on the Fazendin Realtors website states that she enjoyed doing a variety of activities with her son – from reading to ball sports, even mentioning teaching him to downhill ski at the age of 17 months. “The list of fun goes on and on,” the biography states.
The end of Sanberg’s statement said that he intends to do what he can do to ensure that his son’s life was not wasted by working with legislators and courts to add to the current body of family law statutes to “require more comprehensive mental health testing when facts indicate such a need.”