ST. GEORGE — Authorities issued $1 million arrest warrants Friday for a Utah couple charged with murder in the death of a 13-day-old boy.
Maria Elena Sullivan, 26, and Dylan James Kitzmiller, 21, of West Jordan, were each charged in 3rd District Court with first-degree felony murder and three second-degree felony counts of child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury in the death of Sullivan’s newborn son.
Sullivan was living with Kitzmiller in the basement of one of Kitzmiller’s relatives when the baby was born Sept. 4 with no known medical problem, according to charging documents.
Thirteen days later, on Sept. 17, Sullivan told police when she put the baby to bed, she heard him “moan continuously,” the charges state. She said she briefly fell asleep and awoke to the baby making “grunting” noises and “gasping for air.” Sullivan further told police she pinched the baby’s bottom trying to get a response, adding that “she heard the baby gasp a few more times, then he stopped breathing.”
Emergency crews responded to the home at approximately 11:30 p.m. where the infant was in full cardiac arrest, court documents state. Lifesaving measures proved unsuccessful and the newborn was pronounced dead at the scene.
Both police and medical crews observed “bruising around the infant’s eyes, left shoulder and arm, as well as discoloration on his bottom lip and chin,” charges state. “There was also an injury to his left ear, which appeared bruised, raw and peeling.”
During an interview with police, Sullivan said she had called her friend earlier that night and said “she needed a way to get away from Kitzmiller’s abuse” of herself and her son, according to the charges. Although Sullivan knew Kitzmiller was abusive to the baby and learned that he was “using heroin every day,” she continued to leave the baby in his care.
According to court documents, Sullivan told police Kitzmiller would become angry and grab the newborn by the shoulder “causing his head to flip.”
She described incidents of Kitzmiller throwing the baby in the air, swaddling him face down and, on one occasion, covering the baby’s mouth and noise with his hand as the baby cried, court documents state. She also told police Kitzmiller threw the baby back and forth between his hands, slapped the baby in the face and would bite the baby’s hands.
“Sullivan was aware of the bruises and marks on the baby but never sought medical care for him after he came home from the hospital,” charges state.
Kitzmiller told police that both he and Sullivan used heroin on the day of the boy’s death, according to court documents. During a search of the basement bedroom, officers located several adult and baby clothing items that appeared to have blood stains on them.
An autopsy revealed the baby had lost weight from 5 pounds, 6 ounces at birth to 4 pounds, 8 ounces at the time of his death, “a loss of about 14 percent of his body mass,” charges state. His “brain was severely injured” with a “massive” amount of swelling.
The newborn had abrasions and bruises on his face and body and had also suffered a fractured arm, a broken rib and an injured spinal cord.
The preliminary cause of death was determined to be severe brain injuries, court records state.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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