ST. GEORGE — A Utah couple has been arrested for murder in the death of a 13-day-old boy.
Maria Elena Sullivan, the infant’s 26-year-old mother, and her boyfriend Dylan James Kitzmiller, 21, of West Jordan, have been arrested and charged with first-degree felony murder along with three second-degree felony counts of child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury.
Authorities had issued $1 million arrest warrants Friday for the couple’s arrest in relation to the Sept. 17 death of Sullivan’s newborn son.
Sullivan was caught while receiving medical care at a hospital in Georgia, according to a statement issued by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, noting that a “sergeant was at Northside Cherokee Hospital in Canton when he was notified by hospital staff that Sullivan had made some concerning statements to them.”
The statements prompted the sergeant to check for any outstanding warrants issued for Sullivan’s arrest.
“As Sullivan was being discharged from the hospital she was taken into custody and transported to the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center,” the Sheriff’s Office said, adding that it did not know why Sullivan was seeking treatment at the Georgia hospital or how she got from Utah to Georgia.
Sullivan is being held without bond at the detention center awaiting extradition back to Utah.
Kitzmiller was located and arrested in Utah County Friday night and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail early Saturday, according to West Jordan police.
Prosecutors contend Kitzmiller had been abusing the baby boy until his death and that Sullivan did nothing to stop it or seek medical help for the newborn.
On the day of the infant’s death, Sullivan told police when she put her baby to bed, she heard him “moan continuously,” charging documents state. She said she briefly fell asleep and awoke to the baby making “grunting” noises and “gasping for air,” adding that “she heard the baby gasp a few more times, then he stopped breathing.”
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.
Emergency crews responded to the home where the newborn was pronounced dead at the scene.
After police and emergency responders noticed visible injuries on the baby, 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, according to court documents.
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, court records state, noting that 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 nose 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.
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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