Search warrant application in torture case details doctors’ bewilderment over child’s health
While a litany of surgeries, procedures and unusual test results failed to clarify the 9-year-old boy’s conditions, it led to speculation about Borders’ role in causing or fabricating his illnesses.
BRAINERD — Doctors from multiple health care systems — puzzled by a young child’s unexplained health problems over the course of three years — began to share similar and troubling suspicions of abuse.
A July 13 application for a search warrant filed by the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office detailed extensive efforts by professionals to settle on cohesive diagnoses for the son of Jorden Nicole Borders before her arrest on child torture and stalking charges late last month. While a litany of surgeries, procedures and unusual test results failed to clarify the 9-year-old boy’s conditions, it led to speculation about Borders’ role in causing or fabricating his illnesses.
“Her best medical assessment is (redacted name of child) has been the victim of profound and longstanding medical abuse by his mother with unclear contributions from his father,” stated a summary medical review included in the search warrant application. “It is hard to know what, if any, medical conditions he truly has and (redacted name of doctor) suspects much of what we have been treating and addressing will resolve over time with mother’s absence.”
Later in the summary, the writer included another doctor’s assessment of the child’s admission as “the most distressing case in my years as a physician.”
“Everything I have seen fits with the diagnosis of Munchausen by proxy/medical child abuse,” the review stated.
Clues come together
Munchausen syndrome by proxy, according to the National Library of Medicine, is a mental illness and form of child abuse more often found in women, typically the child’s caretaker or mother. Those with the rare syndrome either make up fake symptoms or cause real symptoms to give the appearance of illness in a child.
“To diagnose Munchausen syndrome by proxy, providers have to see the clues,” the library stated. “They have to review the child’s medical record to see what has happened with the child over time. Very often, Munchausen syndrome by proxy goes undiagnosed.”
In the case of Borders’ son, the trail of clues included low hemoglobin levels seemingly explained only by blood removal, repeated sepsis infections of intravenous lines and a lack of evidence to support the child’s apparent inability to digest food in his gastrointestinal system. During one hospitalization, a sudden drop in the boy’s hemoglobin forced a blood transfusion and led one doctor to speculate blood continued to be removed from his body by a caretaker, even under hospital care.
The most distressing case in my years as a physician.
The boy could not walk, describing extreme pain in his feet with no obvious cause.
“It has been over 1 year since he walked and at home he crawls on hands and knees to get around,” the May medical review stated. “ … I believe that his pain is caused by the complex psychological milieu his mother provided as well as his fixed belief that he cannot walk due to pain.”
Providers also noted frequent resistance to medical advice from Borders and her husband, 37-year-old Christopher Martin Badowicz. Badowicz was himself charged with a felony Monday, Nov. 28, for allegedly helping his wife evade arrest after authorities issued a warrant.
Gathered across numerous hospital admissions and outpatient clinic visits dating back to 2019, the evidence of abuse culminated during a mid-May hospitalization. Crow Wing County Community Services took custody of the child and Borders was banned from his bedside.
Hours after Borders left, a surgery team in the midst of removing the boy’s central catheter line, which was infected, noticed the tube providing him nutrition was loose. An examination revealed the balloon used to keep the freshly replaced tube in place in his stomach had burst.
“It is extremely unlikely that this balloon burst spontaneously and I am very concerned that Mother burst it intentionally prior to being removed from the hospital,” the review stated.
During the two to three days that followed, doctors noted encouraging progress in the boy. Two months later, while in the care of a medically trained foster facility, the boy was reportedly walking, eating and bathing on his own and appeared to be “excelling and … self-sufficient.”
The 9-year-old wasn’t the only child affected by Borders’ alleged abuse. The criminal complaint outlining the charges filed against Borders revealed the 32-year-old Crosslake woman apparently self-diagnosed two of her other children — an 11-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl — with osteogenesis imperfecta, known as brittle bones disease. Borders’ Facebook profile, the majority of which is no longer public, showed references to the disease in relation to her children dating back to at least 2016.
In interviews with authorities, the children reported seeing Borders steal syringes and casting supplies from medical facilities and one of the children said she put casts on them herself. A medical review of the 11-year-old boy showed he wore a cast for 796 days, or about two years and two months of his life.
The 11-year-old described Borders’ efforts to deceive medical professionals by making him cough to simulate asthma or vomit while at a doctor’s appointment. The 8-year-old explained Borders forced the 9-year-old to remain in a wheelchair when Badowicz was home so he would not know Borders was lying.
The children’s interviews included descriptions of other kinds of physical and emotional abuse. They said Borders choked them and threw them across the house, beat them with objects including a spoon and charging cords, made them stand outside in the cold in their underwear and forced them to stay in their rooms unless she wanted them to do something for her. The 9-year-old child said he’d never had a bed and was forced to sleep on the floor, telling authorities, “I was never safe.”
Borders also allegedly coerced her children into saying swear words or biting her to leave a mark so they would face punishment from Badowicz, the complaint stated.
Crow Wing County placed the other two children listed in the complaint in protective custody around the end of June or early July, the county attorney’s office reported.
Law enforcement takes action
July 13, after gathering evidence since receiving the intake report from Community Services on May 23, a sheriff’s investigator applied for the search warrant. The application asked for approval to search the couple’s residence on the 33000 block of Industrial Road in Crosslake, including the dwelling, outbuildings, garages and sheds. The investigator also asked to search the three vehicles registered to Borders and Badowicz.
I believe that his pain is caused by the complex psychological milieu his mother provided.
As part of the search, the investigator sought to collect electronic devices and any medical treatment paperwork, as well as obtain photographs of the interior and exterior of the property.
Just over three hours after the investigator signed the application, Crow Wing County Judge Patricia Aanes signed the search warrant, granting the sheriff’s office permission to proceed. Two days later on July 15, the search warrant was executed and evidence including syringes and casting materials were located, the criminal complaint stated.
Six felony charges were filed against Borders on Nov. 21, but authorities were unable to locate her when they attempted arrest. Two days later, she and Badowicz were arrested at their home after Badowicz initially told police Borders wasn’t there, according to the complaint.
Borders’ bail/bond was set Monday at $200,000 without conditions and $125,000 with conditions and she was assigned a public defender. Borders posted her conditional bond Tuesday, paying 10% of the bail ($12,500) to A-Affordable Bail Bonds in Brainerd. She was released from the Crow Wing County Jail and her next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 23, 2023. Badowicz is expected to return to court Tuesday.
Borders and Badowicz, who is the father of the youngest two children, agreed to terminate their parental rights in a court hearing Friday. After they agreed to the termination, Judge Aanes asked attorneys for any other comments. Assistant County Attorney Marc Hedman told the judge the children wanted no contact with Borders, but wished to stay in touch with Badowicz through updates.
Borders received financial assistance from the state of Minnesota to care for the 9-year-old child and was nominated to receive several gifts and money from nonprofit foundations in the area, the criminal complaint stated, totaling more than $35,000. Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said Thursday his office is reviewing facts of the case related to the financial support Borders received for possible additional criminal charges.
More from the medical reviews
Before May 2019, Borders’ 9-year-old son had an unremarkable medical history, the search warrant application stated. Then, after being treated for apparent neurological symptoms correlated with a new medication, a fever and a cold, the child’s medical complexity grew significantly. Several conditions appeared to be present in the boy from that point forward, primarily focused on blood- and digestion-related issues.
Anemia — or low hemoglobin levels — first was noted in March 2021, when the boy was ultimately hospitalized for a month with multiple symptoms from which doctors could not determine a unifying diagnosis.
In October of that year, the boy was admitted to a hospital as part of a planned multidisciplinary evaluation and observation. Doctors obtained a bone marrow biopsy, which returned abnormal findings, and a muscle biopsy, showing a borderline abnormal result. They identified two possible causes for these findings — a mitochondrial disorder or an excess of iron in the body. The boy had received multiple iron infusions.
It is highly concerning that this trend appears to continue while he is in the hospital and this must raise significant concerns about his safety, even in the hospital.
Doctors recommended a second biopsy be performed following a period of time free of iron infusions to rule out this cause. According to the notes, however, Borders and Badowicz refused this intervention despite being told the infusions could be the root.
The room in which he stayed had cameras, the review stated, but the cameras were not turned on. After that visit, Borders apparently would not return to that facility.
Later health care visits as part of the boy’s “highly atypical clinical course” were noted in a second medical review included in the warrant application, leading to the “relatively longstanding concern about the possibility of medical child abuse over the past year.”
After describing the definition of medical child abuse, which is the more modern term for Munchausen syndrome by proxy, the writer of the review stated the unexplained hemoglobin loss was the clearest medical information to support such a diagnosis.
“Far and away the most likely medical explanation for (the child’s) hemoglobin loss is that blood is being removed via his central catheter. It is highly concerning that this trend appears to continue while he is in the hospital and this must raise significant concerns about his safety, even in the hospital,” the review stated.
“Children who are victims of Medical Child Abuse must be considered at great risk for devastating or fatal abuse when a central catheter is in place as the catheter not only provides a way for blood to leave the body but it also provides direct access for easy introduction of infectious material, drugs, or other substances into the blood.
“ … The fact that his hematologic ‘illness’ has been induced and he is the victim of Medical Child Abuse must cast serious doubt and raise serious concern about his gastrointestinal symptoms.”