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Fargo mother threatens to kill children, faces felony abuse charges

FARGO -- Police received a disturbing call from the boyfriend of Virginia Mara Adams two months ago.

He had gotten a text message from Adams in which the Fargo woman said she was depressed and planned to kill herself and her three children, ages 6, 4 and 3.

Adams told him she "will go to hell and they will go to heaven," according to a police report on the May 9 incident at 3233 35th Ave. S. She also texted she "would come get him too if he was ready to die, if not bye."

Officers found her sitting in her vehicle in her garage with the door closed, partially consumed containers of beer and rum between the front seats and an odor of alcohol on her breath. The keys were in the ignition, but the engine wasn't running. All three children were inside the vehicle.

Police allege Adams confirmed what she had told her boyfriend: She planned to let the vehicle run in the closed garage, poisoning herself and her young kids.

The allegations prompted three counts of felony child abuse, which were filed on Tuesday in Cass County District Court.

"The potential outcome could have been tragic," said Leah Viste, assistant Cass County state's attorney prosecuting the case.

Viste said it's not unheard of for a mother to be accused of threatening the lives of her own children.

She recalled the 2008 case in Polk County (Minn.) in which the sister of convicted murderer Moe Gibbs tried to poison her daughters, ages 3 and 4. Officers found her SUV running, with a hose connected to her vehicle's exhaust pipe leading inside the vehicle.

In that case, Breezetta Etienne, 31, pleaded guilty to attempted murder charges and was sentenced to about 12 years in prison.

Viste said she considered the totality of the alleged circumstances -- including the fact the vehicle wasn't running in Adams' case -- when deciding to file child abuse charges instead of attempted murder.

"You want to be just in the results and in the charge," Viste said.

If she's convicted, Adams could still face a lengthy stint behind bars. Two of the three counts are Class B felonies due to two of the children being under the age of six. The remaining count is a lesser Class C felony. Convictions on a Class B felony carry a maximum 10 years in prison, compared to five years for Class C felonies.

Attempts by The Forum to contact Adams, who is either 24 years old or 25, were unsuccessful. She has no listed phone number and didn't answer the door at her townhouse Wednesday afternoon.

Adams hasn't made an appearance in court on the charges, nor had an arrest warrant been issued yet, according to court records.

The mother was taken to Essentia Health for a mental health evaluation following the incident, but a representative of the hospital said Wednesday she was not a patient there.

In reports filed with the charges, police say officers interviewed the children and found they weren't aware what their mother was planning to do.

Police reported state Cass County Social Services put the children in the temporary custody of Adams' boyfriend, Daniel Mattson, and Mattson's mother. The children would be placed in a foster home after that, according to the report.

A phone message left Wednesday for the social services agent handling the case wasn't returned.

Mattson's mother didn't want to discuss the case but said she'd pass along a message to her son. Daniel Mattson didn't return the message Wednesday.