A 24-year-old Hibbing man was charged Monday in the death of his 11-month-old nephew, whom he left alone in pursuit of getting high when a fire scorched an Iron Range home.
Jesse Lee Bonacci-Koski was charged in St. Louis County District Court with second-degree manslaughter, auto theft and possession of methamphetamine in connection with the blaze Wednesday that killed Bentley Joe Lewis Koski in Tower.
Bonacci-Koski remains jailed in Virginia, Minn., in lieu of $200,000 bail ahead of an Aug. 21 court appearance.
About 7:40 a.m., flames were shooting out of a first-floor window and smoke was billowing from a second-story window when firefighters arrived at the house in the 800 block of N. 3rd Street.
A firefighter walked out of the home carrying the body of the boy, who had been left in the care of Bonacci-Koski for the night while the boy's parents were out, according to the charges.
When firefighters arrived at the home, Bonacci-Koski was not there, the criminal complaint read. Sheriff's deputies caught up with Bonacci-Koski, who police say had stolen an SUV, 16 miles away as he walked out of the woods in Pike Township.
Bonacci-Koski told a deputy that he had left the boy alone for two hours in search of illicit drugs, the complaint continued. He soon saw firetrucks heading to the home of his brother, Cody Koski, and his wife, Krista Swanson. Bonacci-Koski said nothing to the firefighters and went to a bar in Tower before stealing the SUV parked on the town's main street and left unlocked with the keys in the ignition, the charges added.
Authorities have ruled out arson as a cause of the fire but have otherwise not addressed how the blaze began.
Two days after the boy's death, Swanson wrote on Facebook, "I miss you so much my lil man. Words can't express how lost and empty I feel without you here with us. Life just seems to have no meaning anymore, and getting up without you seems like more of a chore than a blessing like it used to be.
"Me n Daddy love you always and you will never leave our thoughts and hearts. XOXOXOXO our lil Man, Boo, Jr., daddy's lil Geppetto."
Bonacci-Koski's criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for felony and misdemeanor assault, as well as drunken driving, drug possession and disorderly conduct. He's also been convicted of fleeing police three times and underage drinking four times. He also has several charges pending in connection with numerous shoplifting incidents.