A Minnesota man is facing two counts of second-degree murder—and up to 30 years in prison if convicted—after prosecutors say he beat an infant to death after discovering that he was not the biological father of the child, the Washington Post reports.
According to the report, staff at a day care center first began noticing injuries on the baby girl in March after she was dropped off with two burst blood vessels in her eye.
Over the next few days, staff noticed more injuries, including bruises and scratches on the infant's cheek and more on her back.
When staff inquired about the injuries, Chris McMorris, the live-in boyfriend of the baby girl's mother, said the child had been injured at home, according to the report.
On March 24, McMorris did not drop the child off at day care.
Instead, 911 was called to a Brooklyn Park, Minn., residence. Emergency responders arrived at the home and found McMorris sitting on a bed, talking on the phone. The infant was lying on the floor, not moving, authorities say.
The baby was pronounced dead less than two hours later. According to the Post, the baby's injuries detailed in the statement of probable cause included 11 rib fractures and bruises to the scalp, abdomen, back and buttocks. The infant also had a lacerated liver, which bled into her abdominal cavity, the Post reports.
Authorities concluded that the baby was hit in her abdomen multiple times, ruling her death a homicide.
According to the Washington Post, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said McMorris killed the infant after discovering he wasn't her biological father. A paternity test had confirmed that fact about three days before the baby was killed.
McMorris' attorney, Ira Whitlock, maintained his client's innocence, noting that the baby's mother told investigators that she did not notice the bruises and scratches the day care workers had spotted. According to the probable cause statement, the mother said the baby had had a cold but had otherwise been playing, crawling and eating normally the night before she was found dead. The mother was not able to explain why the child was found with so many injuries.
“Just because a person ends up being the last person with the baby when the baby dies doesn’t mean that person caused the injuries to the baby,” Whitlock said. “Mr. McMorris was with the baby, but it doesn’t mean he inflicted the injuries to the child.”
McMorris is currently in the custody of the Hennepin County Jail, and his bail has been set at $1.5 million.
Freeman noted that prosecutors will decide within six weeks if the case meets the criteria for premeditated murder, at which point it may be brought before a grand jury. According to the Post, in Minnesota a person cannot be charged with first-degree premeditated murder without indictment by a grand jury.
Freeman added that it was still too soon to say if the mother of the baby will also face charges.
Read more at the Washington Post.