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Benedict surgeon charged with abuse of foster son

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- One month before a Benedict, Minn., surgeon was charged with trying to choke his foster son by jamming a surgical glove down his throat, the man tied a shoestring around the boy’s scrotum May 17, an amended criminal complaint states.

The allegation came as Dennis James Sullivan, 50, made his initial appearance Friday in Hubbard County District Court after being extradited from North Dakota the previous day.

According to Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne, the incident was never reported to authorities, as it legally should have been.

It raises the question as to why the 10-year-old boy remained in the foster home with Sullivan and his wife, Rebecca.

A welfare check by Anoka County on Tuesday led to Sullivan’s arrest at a Grand Forks, N.D., mental health center after Sullivan called the center expressing “homicidal thoughts” and headed north, according to the complaint.

Anoka County’s connection to the case is unclear, but that county reportedly learned of the possible abuse Tuesday afternoon. Authorities say Sullivan tried to jam a glove down the boy’s throat when Rebecca Sullivan confronted him.

It is believed the Anoka County welfare check prompted Hubbard County authorities to investigate.

At the Stadter Center in Grand Forks on Tuesday night, Sullivan was arrested on an outstanding warrant for driving under suspension, likely from a DUI conviction in 2010.

He was charged in Hubbard County with attempted second-degree intentional murder, first-degree assault and third-degree assault. Dearstyne amended the complaint to add a second count of third-degree assault in connection with the May allegation.

District Judge Robert Tiffany set Sullivan’s bail at $750,000 unconditional and $500,000 conditional, with a 10 percent cash alternative.

If Sullivan posts bond, he is to surrender his passport, not engage in any alcohol or drug use, stay one mile away from his home, avoid contact with M.K., the foster boy, and generally remain law-abiding.

Sullivan’s attorney, Michael Undem, objected to the complaint, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to support the charges.

“A pattern of domestic abuse must be established,” Undem argued, stating the boy never underwent medical care for his alleged injuries. The assault charges assert the boy suffered “great bodily harm or substantial bodily harm.”

Tiffany disagreed, saying “there is sufficient probable cause to sign the amended complaint.”

Undem asked for a mental evaluation, saying “there are mental health issues here that need to be addressed.”

Dearstyne asked for bail amounts of $1.5 million unconditional and $1.1 million conditional, contending Sullivan was a flight risk with access to significant funds.

Rebecca Sullivan, who was in the courtroom Friday, asked that she be allowed to see her husband.

Tiffany lifted the no-contact order but told the couple they could not discuss any aspect of the case.

Dennis Sullivan is prohibited from having any contact with M.K. or any other children.

Rebecca Sullivan, whose role in the alleged abuse has not been determined, said she needed access to the couple’s bank accounts to begin liquidating assets.

Dearstyne said she has been cooperative in the case.

Rebecca Sullivan said she had been married to Dennis Sullivan for four years.

Dennis Sullivan told Tiffany he had been living in the Benedict area for seven years.

The case is assigned to Judge Paul Rasmussen, who will conduct a hearing June 30.

Sullivan’s medical license indicates he’s assigned to the Wapiti Medical Group of Milbank S.D., and that he is licensed to perform general surgery, trauma and surgical critical care. He obtained his medical education at the University of Minnesota and became licensed in 1991.