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Foster care provider's license suspended after death

The foster home where a 6-year-old girl died has had its license temporary suspended by the state.
Credit: KARE
Kendrea Johnson. Photo courtesy of Mary Broadus

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. -- The Minn. Dept. of Human Services Wednesday temporarily suspended the license of a foster care provider, days after a six-year-old girl was fatally injured in her bedroom with a jump rope.

Kendrea Johnson died at North Memorial Hospital Saturday night, shortly after a foster parent found her hanging by a jump rope tied to the support post of her bunk bed.

The suspension order sent to foster Tannise Nawaqavou of Brooklyn Park said the suspension will last at least until the investigation is finished, saying that due to the serious nature of the case the state "cannot ensure the safety of the persons served in your program."

Nawaqavou did not answer the door Wednesday, or the previous three days when KARE reporters went to the foster home.

In the meantime, Kendrea Johnson's biological family continues to press for answers.

"There was nothing sad about my niece. There wasn't nothing self-destructive about her. There wasn't nothing suicidal about her," Willie Venzant, Kendrea's uncle, told KARE Wednesday.

"She was a six-year-old child. She was happy. She loved life. You tell me what six year old knows about harming themselves? That's unheard of!"

Venzant and his wife Marketa had been trying to gain custody of the girl and her brother, a toddler who was placed in the same foster home where Kendrea suffered her life ending injury. He said they had already jumped through several hoops in the process, and had a family court date scheduled for mid January.

The child had lived with her grandmother Mary Broadus - Venzant's mother -- in Minneapolis prior to being placed in foster care.

"We've known that girl all of her life. We wanted to take care of her, and we thought we'd be getting her soon. Now our niece is dead."

Kendrea and two siblings were previously removed from their biological mother by Child Protective Services.

Sophisticated Knot

A search warrant application a Brooklyn Park Police detective filed with a Hennepin County judge the night of the accident provided a glimpse into the investigation.

It said Kendrea was fine and in her room coloring at 8:11 p.m. Saturday when an adult who lives in the house checked in on her. The same adult said that when he checked again at 8:30 p.m., the girl was unconscious and hanging from a jump rope tied to a support post on her bunk bed.

The detective's affidavit said that a Hennepin County Crime Lab deputy was suspicious because the rope was tied with a "very sophisticated knot" and the deputy "didn't believe that a six year old would be able to tie such a knot."

The search warrant return paper work said investigators collected the jump rope, two jump rope handles, hand written notes and a white bucket with a lid on it.

The foster parents told investigators had never seen the white bucket in the girl's room before that moment. They also told the detective that Kendrea "did not have a history of mental illness or of trying to hurt herself."

The detective also noticed a "red blood like substance" on a blanket on the bottom bunk bed, that "could possibly be" from Kendrea.

The Brooklyn Park Police Dept. has not revealed any new details of the case, other than to report the nature of the 9-1-1 call officers responded to Saturday night.

The autopsy results are still pending.

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