October 12, 2010 in Idaho

Baby sitter in boy’s death: ‘It was all my fault’

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Courtesy of Kootenai County Sheriff's Department photo

Amanda Skogen
(Full-size photo)

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A photo raffle has been organized to help the family of Cohen Johnson. Find out how to participate and where to get more information on the event’s Facebook page.

A Post Falls baby sitter accused of murdering a 3-year-old boy told police after failing a polygraph test, “I hurt a poor little defenseless boy … And it was all my fault,” documents released Tuesday say.

Amanda L. Skogen, 25, remains in Kootenai County Jail on $1 million bail after appearing in First District Court on a first-degree murder charge Tuesday.

Skogen replied “uh, yes,” when asked if she understood the charge against her, which is punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Skogen is a flight risk and emphasized that while she cooperated with investigators, she didn’t confess until she failed the polygraph exam.

McHugh said Skogen was on her knees when she shoved Cohen Johnson on Oct. 4 “in a very violent manner, causing him to fall back and hit his head.”

“The injuries were immediately debilitating,” McHugh said.

Cohen was taken off life support at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center on Friday. Skogen was arrested on a first-degree murder charge shortly after. Police say she had already confessed after she failed a polygraph on Oct. 5.

Prosecutors have 60 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Skogen, who has no criminal history.

Police reports describe the unemployed Skogen as a native of Riverton, Wyo.. News archives show she married Matthew D. Skogen, the son of Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy David Skogen, in 2004.

The couple were at the deputy’s home after Cohen was hospitalized Monday night; police reached Amanda there and she agreed to go to the police station in Post Falls for an interview.

Skogen initially denied hurting the boy and said she believed he had the flu and fell while she was changing his wet pants. The boy showed no obvious signs of trauma, and police said the home appeared “clean and well kept.” Officers described Skogen as “very shaken and concerned.” She traveled with the boy’s mother to the hospital and sent text messages that night inquiring about his condition.

Medics first thought Cohen ingested a poisonous material, but a doctor at Kootenai Medical Center discovered two skull fractures she said were “not accidental.”

The boy also had bruising on his face that the doctor said was caused by someone grabbing his face and pulling his right ear. Cohen also had a healing black eye, but Skogen said it was caused by Cohen colliding with her dog.

She later said she became “frustrated and angry” with Cohen after he urinated in his pants and on her as the two were napping on her couch. She said she shoved him and he fell back and hit his head, which made a “cracking noise,” according to a police report. She told police she slapped the boy and shook his face to try to revive him.

“Amanda said she most likely did this out of nervousness and the knowledge that she had just done something terrible,” according to the report.

Cohen’s 2-year-old sister was present at the time.

“This is not a freak accident or fluke,” said Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug. “This is somebody who acted out of anger, shoved a child and caused his death.”

Police say Skogen had cared for the boy, who his father said called her “Aunt Amanda,” since June. Matt Skogen knows the boy’s father, Jeremy R. Johnson, from high school, according to the police report.

Johnson and Cohen’s mother, Jennifer A. Gamble, are separated, and Skogen had been caring for Cohen at her home on North Elm Road since about June while his parents worked.

Cohen’s parents have declined to speak to media but thanked Cohen’s supporters and Sacred Heart staff in a prepared statement Tuesday.

“We will remember Cohen not for the way he left us, but for the brilliant life he gave us,” his parents wrote. “We sincerely hope others might do the same.”

Johnson described Cohen to police as “the most amazing child” who was active and had good communication skills.


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