A Maplewood man was charged Friday with second-degree murder in the beating death of an 18-month-old girl.
Leb Mike Meak, 35, reportedly shook and “roughed [the girl] up” Thursday before police were called to the house in the 2500 block of Barclay Street in Maplewood to find her unresponsive, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court. The complaint also indicated that the girl could have been sexually abused.
“When you look at the gravity of the abuse that this child endured, it’s beyond comprehension,” Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said in an interview. “It’s hard to imagine what this little girl’s life was like in the days or weeks prior to her death.”
The girl, whom authorities are not identifying, was the daughter of Meak’s girlfriend, but not Meak’s biological child. Meak told police that he was watching the toddler, who had been living with him for the past 2½ weeks, because the girlfriend worked a lot, according to the criminal complaint.
The different stages of the injuries’ healing indicated that the toddler was abused more than once, Schnell said.
“This was not an episode,” he said. “What’s preliminarily indicated was that there was a pattern of abuse of this child.”
The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office on Friday ruled the child’s death a homicide, with the preliminary autopsy finding multiple external and internal injuries to the girl.
“This young child suffered unspeakable horror in the last moments of her short life,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said. “This is an especially heinous crime, and we will seek justice for the family as well as the entire community.”
According to the complaint:
A little after 11 a.m. Thursday, Maplewood police responded to a call of a baby who was not breathing. Meak led officers to a downstairs bedroom, where they found the girl, who was on her back and unresponsive. Schnell said she was found on the floor.
As authorities tried to revive the girl, they noticed a large number of black and purple bruises on her chest and stomach, and her face was bruised. Meak told police that the child had hit her head on a space heater and also some of his weights recently.
Meak said that on Thursday, he went to the kitchen to get a bottle and that when he came back, she was not breathing.
He told police that her bruises could have come from when he “roughed her up little bit” while changing her diaper or while telling her to stay when he went to get her bottle. He admitted that he shook the girl a few times that morning. Meak told police that it was possible that he caused the injuries that resulted in the girl’s death, according to the complaint.
In addition to her bruises, investigators found semen on the child’s genital area, which Meak offered no explanation for, according to the complaint. He said he had stuck his finger in her anus and vagina to try to clean out stool.
Meak’s father was also at the home at the time of the incident but he was released after questioning. Meak has two older children who live at the home and they have been placed in protective custody, Schnell said. Prior police reports for that address did not indicate any history of child abuse allegations, Schnell said.
Neighbors declined to comment Friday and the family of the girl wasn’t immediately able to be reached.
Meak will make his first appearance in court on Tuesday.