Utah nurse charged with beating a 2-year-old foster child to death

(Photo courtesy Duchesne County Sheriff) Lisa Jo Vanderlinden

A Duchesne County nurse has been charged with killing a 2-year-old foster boy who was in her care.

Lisa Jo Vanderlinden, 41, of Neola — a licensed practical nurse who had done some contract work for the Children’s Justice Center — was charged in 8th District Court with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.

According to a probable cause statement, Vanderlinden and her husband — who had previously fostered and adopted children — took in the boy, identified as L.C., and his younger sister in April 2017. Vanderlinden found L.C. to be “difficult and challenging, and while she wanted to keep and adopt the sister, she did not want to adopt him.”

On Aug. 4, the boy “exhibited behavioral problems during dinner” and Vanderlinden — who told police she was “mad and frustrated” — removed him from the table. The boy vomited several times, and Vanderlinden cleaned him up in the bathroom.

Other children in the household told investigators Vanderlinden was “ornery” and “mad” and family members reported hearing a “loud bang” from the bathroom where Vanderlinden was cleaning the boy.

"Thereafter, L.C. wasn't acting normal and wouldn't walk," according to the report.

On the morning of Aug. 5, police responded to the Vanderlinden home and discovered the body of L.C., who had “multiple bruises on his face.” The medical examiner reported that L.C. had “numerous bruises and abrasions to his scalp, head, face, arms, hands, abdomen, back, and legs, as well as significant internal injuries” caused by “blunt force trauma ... that resulted in his death” — injuries that were “consistent with child physical abuse.”

According to investigators, Vanderlinden “admitted … that she had sole care of L.C. during the hours following dinner” and other family members were “ruled out” as suspects “because they were not present in the home nor had control over L.C. during that time period.”

Investigators also reported that a search of Vanderlinden’s cellphone included searches of the type of injuries L.C. suffered. “Despite her training as a foster parent and nurse,” Vanderlinden “was completely indifferent to L.C.'s well-being and did not seek medical attention for the boy.”

After the death of L.C., the other “foster children and natural children” were removed from the Vanderlinden home by the Division of Child and Family Services.” According to court documents, Vanderlinden “stated that her kids were being removed 'because of what I did.'”

The probably cause statement also referenced “multiple unsupported/unsubstantiated allegations of abuse and/or neglect against the defendant” — including “hitting or punching a minor child” — that had been reported to the state .

The Division of Child and Family Services issued a statement that the agency investigates “every allegation of abuse and neglect of a child. When there is an allegation involving a child in our care, a conflict team outside the division conducts the investigation to ensure heightened objectivity when evaluating safety and practice.

“We are seeking important answers through this investigation and are fully cooperating with the attorney general, law enforcement and the medical examiner through this case. We immediately opened our own internal investigation and have engaged a third-party to review this case.”