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Nelson toddler’s death under investigation; autopsy set for Tuesday

A house at the corner of Bassett and Main in Nelson is at the center of death investigation regarding a child.

NELSON – An autopsy is scheduled Tuesday afternoon for a 3-year-old Nelson girl who was pronounced dead early Saturday at CGH Medical Center in Sterling, the Whiteside County coroner said.

No one is charged in the toddler’s death. The cause and manner of how she died is still being determined, Whiteside County Coroner Joe McDonald said.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Department and the state Department of Children and Family Services are investigating, along with the Lee County State’s Attorney and the State Police, Sheriff John Simonton confirmed Monday. He declined to release any further information.

Emergency responders received a 9-1-1 call from a home on the 100 block of East Bassett Street around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, McDonald said. The girl, who was unresponsive, was taken to CGH Medical Center in Sterling, where she was pronounced dead about an hour later, McDonald said.

The child lived with her parents, Frank and Dana Sauer, and five siblings in Nelson, a village of about 170 in western Lee County, McDonald said. Frank Sauer also goes by the first name “Joe,” according to public records.

Five children who were in the home are now in DCFS custody, while three older half-sisters are with their father and mother, DCFS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said Monday.

The half-sisters – two of Dana’s daughters and a daughter of Joe’s — lived at the house occasionally, McCaffrey said.

DCFS has had prior interactions with the family, McCaffrey said. He declined to provide more information until the investigation progresses.

Eddie Bouvia of Harmon is the father of Dana’s two girls, 11 and 13.

He said he received a call around 6 p.m. Saturday advising him of the 3-year-old’s death and asking him to come get his girls, who he said lived with their mother.

He wound up taking all of the children, who range in age from 6 months to 8 years, until Sunday night, when the Sauer children were placed elsewhere, Bouvia said.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.