A. Lea man charged with murder in 2-year-old’s death; bail set at $1 million

Published 6:17 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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An Albert Lea man is facing charges of second-degree murder and child endangerment in the death of a 2-year-old boy Thursday morning at Trailside Apartments.

Austin Michael Navarro, 24, appeared in Freeborn County District Court Friday in front of Judge Christy Hormann, who set Navarro’s bail at $1 million without conditions and $500,000 with conditions.

The charges came after the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office earlier in the day ruled the boy, identified as Ahziyas Bellemy Solo-Dampha, had died by blunt force injuries and that the manner of death was a homicide.

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An autopsy revealed multiple bruises, abrasions, broken ribs and internal bleeding resulting from a lacerated liver and pancreas, according to the Freeborn County Attorney’s Office.

The court complaint stated the child was in Navarro’s care while his mother was working, along with a 3-month old baby that the woman and Navarro had in common.

The mother told police she had received the first of several text messages at 10:02 a.m. Thursday stating the 2-year-old had fallen down the stairs. She exchanged text messages asking for photos of the child to evaluate his condition and it wasn’t until more than an hour and a half later that he reportedly sent a photo showing the child with blood on his lips, severe bruising and appearing unresponsive.

After sending the photo, Navarro reportedly sent another message saying it wasn’t him and that the child was “just acting slow.”

After seeing pictures of the injuries, the mother left work, and when she attempted to walk into the house she had to force the door open because a knife had been wedged in the door.

She found Navarro upstairs locked behind a bedroom door with their 3-month-old baby in his arms and her 2-year-old child laying on the bed unresponsive.

She called 911 at that point.

The court complaint states dispatchers received two 911 calls in close succession at 11:43 a.m., the first of which was a person who reported yelling next door and the second was from the mother, who reported that the child was unresponsive.

When officers were dispatched to the apartments, at 504 James Ave., an officer was informed that Navarro had left the scene.

The officer stopped Navarro in the vehicle about nine blocks away, and Navarro reportedly stated he had left the scene because he was scared. The 3-month-old baby was also in the vehicle.

The 2-year-old child was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, where he died at 12:54 p.m.

The boy had severe bruises on the jaw line and chin, a long, narrow bruise on his nose and bruises on his forehead, eyelid and torso, according to court records.

Freeborn County Attorney David Walker in court Friday said the 3-month-old baby was also found to have broken ribs, though the report had not been turned in yet about the causes of that injury.

The attorney said he had strong concerns for the safety of the family and that Navarro would be a flight risk. He said Navarro had a high bond score based off of his criminal history, which included four bench warrants in the last three years and prior violent offenses, including third-degree assault and domestic assault. Navarro also had two violations of no contact orders in 2021.

Walker noted there was also the possibility for further charges through a grand jury.

Hormann said she also had public safety concerns based on Navarro’s previous criminal history, the allegations in the case and concerns that he would be a flight risk.

She approved a domestic abuse no contact order for both the mother and the 3-month-old infant after Walker expressed concern that there could be the potential for intimidation and harassment.

Navarro said he did not think the no contact order needed to happen and also asked that the judge continue without giving a statement when she asked if he had a statement prior to her setting bail.

The murder charge carries with it a presumptive sentence of 150 months in prison for someone with a zero criminal history score and a maximum sentence of 40 years.

Navarro is next slated to appear in court July 20.