A Minnesota man has been charged with murder after his girlfriend’s 14-month-old daughter died of “multiple head and neck injuries” while alone in his care, according to online court records and local authorities.
Erik Adrian Blanco, 40, of Little Falls, Minnesota, was taken into custody on Wednesday and charged with one count of second-degree murder with intent and one count of second-degree murder without intent in the death of the toddler, online court records show. During his first court appearance on Friday, the judge set Blanco’s bond at $1 million, according to Morrison County Jail records.
An autopsy by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the little girl, identified as Riverlynn VanNorman, died of “multiple head and neck injuries that were consistent with homicidal violence,” according to a statement by the Little Falls Police Department (LFPD).
Newsweek reached out via email Saturday to the LFPD and the Morrison County Attorney’s Office for comment.
It was unclear if Blanco had retained an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
VanNorman and her mother, identified as Raylynn Skroch, had been temporarily living with Blanco, Skroch’s boyfriend, for about a week before the girl died, according to LFPD.
Skroch called 911 shortly after 9:20 p.m. on July 6 and told the dispatcher that her toddler was “choking on vomit and not breathing,” according to the probable cause affidavit shared online by local outlet The Star Tribune. When police and paramedics responded to the home on Third Street Northeast in Little Falls, they found VanNorman unresponsive and observed bruises on her face along with marks on her neck, according LFPD officers cited in the court documents.
The toddler was rushed to St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Little Falls, where she was pronounced dead, police said.
Skroch told police that prior to the 911 call, she had left her daughter in the care of Blanco while she made a “brief trip to a liquor store,” the documents state. When she returned, the toddler wasn’t breathing and Blanco was performing CPR on her, she said.
When LFPD officers first arrived at Blanco’s home, Skroch was hysterical and “screaming her daughter’s name,” according to the court documents, which state that Blanco was reportedly seen praying on and off “but was otherwise unemotional.”
Skroch reported to investigators that she noticed bruising on VanNorman’s neck earlier that day after Blanco had given the girl a shower, according to the documents. When questioned about the marks on her daughter’s neck, Blanco told Skroch the little girl slipped and hurt herself, the court documents state.
During a follow-up interview with investigators, Blanco’s explanations of how VanNorman sustained the injuries had contradicted what he had earlier reported. He told officers that he didn’t hurt the girl, according to the court documents.
Little Falls Police Chief Greg Schimers, in a statement, referred to VanNorman’s death as a “heart-breaking tragedy.”
“This case has deeply affected our community, and our thoughts and condolences go out to Riverlynn’s family during this unimaginably difficult time,” Schimmers said. “The pain and sorrow they are feeling is shared by the entire community. We also would like to express our gratitude to the community for their patience, understanding, and support throughout the course of this long and difficult investigation.”
Blanco has a history of child abuse and other violent crimes, according to court documents shared on Minnesota Court Records Online (MCRO).
The online records show that Blanco was convicted of felony domestic assault in 2017, theft of a firearm or property valued at over $35,000 in 2016, receiving stolen property in 2014, assault with a dangerous weapon in 2014, disorderly conduct and obstruction in 2006 and assault causing great bodily harm in 2001.
In the 2001 case, Blanco pleaded guilty to assaulting a 1-year-old child who suffered a “large skull fracture” while under his care, the online records show.
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