No charges, but probe continues in Crystal infant death

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2012 - 11:26 AM

The Crystal couple were, however, charged with domestic assault unrelated to the baby case.

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Investigators on Thursday warmed the ground and carefully dug in a corner (lower left) of a yard in Crystal as part of a search for human remains.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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Authorities offered a few clues about baby bones found in a Crystal back yard this week, but the couple arrested in connection with the infant's death weren't charged by a Friday deadline because of insufficient evidence.

The investigation continues, however, in what Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman called a complex case that could result in charges in several weeks. The couple, a 30-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman, were charged Friday in a domestic assault case from earlier in the week. Police said those charges had no bearing on the investigation of the infant's death. The man was released on bond late Friday; the woman was released on bond early Saturday morning.

At a news conference Friday, Crystal Police Chief John Banick said authorities received a tip about the infant's remains Tuesday afternoon when the man walked into the Crystal Police Department and said "there was a baby buried in the back yard" of the couple's home. The man said that the baby belonged to his wife and was born in August 2008 at the house in the 5700 block of Quail Avenue N.

Several hours earlier Tuesday, police had responded to a domestic assault call at the house.

Police arrested the couple Tuesday evening in the baby case. The man was booked on suspicion of "murder of an unborn child" and the woman on suspicion of "manslaughter of an unborn child."

Authorities searched the home and property from Tuesday until Friday morning. They brought in equipment from a nearby cemetery to soften a corner of the yard, and the bones were found Thursday.

The baby boy was between 30 and 38 weeks old, Banick said, but authorities didn't know whether he was alive or dead when born.

The chief also said that people whom investigators interviewed said they didn't know the woman was pregnant.

Freeman said during a news conference at Hennepin County Government Center that the couple have two other children, a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son, who are in protective custody "for the foreseeable future."

Police turned over the case to the county attorney's office Friday to consider for charging, less than a day after the bones were discovered. The attorney's office had until 4 p.m. Friday to charge the couple.

At Friday's news conference, Freeman said that even if the man or woman had confessed to killing the baby, authorities would need corroborating evidence before filing charges.

The misdemeanor fifth-degree domestic assault charges filed Friday afternoon have no bearing on the investigation into the death of the infant, said Crystal Deputy Police Chief Stephanie Fealy.

The domestic assault charges were announced after the news conference. Banick said that the couple had a history of being physically abusive to each other, but that the call to their house on Tuesday was the first by police.

According to the charges, the estranged couple got into an argument Monday over bills. The man pushed her to the ground, knelt within a foot of her face and verbally abused her, the complaint said. The woman told police their son came to her aid, jumping on her husband's back, the complaint said. The man then said "he was going to hurt somebody" and left.

On Tuesday, police were called to the house regarding an "unwanted party." The woman told police her husband wanted to come into the house, but she refused, the complaint said. He left when she said she was going to call the police.

The man later told officers that he pushed his wife down, but that she was swinging a hammer and he was acting in self-defense, the complaint said. She told police that she swung the hammer, but that it was also in self-defense.

Five hours after the incident, the man went to police and told them about the baby in the back yard.

dchanen@startribune.com • 612-673-4465

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