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Bail set in toddler death case

WORTHINGTON -- Bail was set at $500,000 for the man accused of unintentionally killing a 2-year-old toddler in his care.

Josue Fraga, 34, of Worthington, had his first appearance Friday morning in Nobles County District Court. Fraga is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the death of his niece, Samantha Fraga.

Several family members, members of the Worthington Police Department and various attorneys were on hand to listen as Judge Timothy Connell advised Fraga of his rights -- the right to remain silent, to be represented by an attorney and to have a court or jury trial.

"The burden of proof is on the state," Connell told Fraga. "The state has to prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt."

Fraga was assigned two attorneys -- Christine Wietzema and Cecil Naatz -- to represent him. During today's court appearance, the state was represented by Nobles County Deputy Attorney Kathy Kusz. The Minnesota Attorney General's Office will handle the prosecution of the case with assistance from the Nobles County Attorney's Office.

If he can make bail, Fraga's conditions of release include not leaving the state without permission, maintaining contact with his attorneys, reporting any change of address and having no contact with children, including his own.

His next court appearance is tentatively set for 9 a.m. April 8 at the Prairie Justice Center.

Fraga was arrested Wednesday evening in Adrian, almost a week after he and his wife brought the child to the emergency room in the early morning hours of March 20 because she was unresponsive. According to the criminal complaint, the girl had a distended stomach and bruises on her body. The girl was pronounced dead at 6:18 a.m. An initial exam revealed evidence of significant trauma to her head and rectal area.

During an interview with authorities, Fraga said he woke up, went in the children's room and saw the girl's 3-year-old brother jumping on her. The doctor who later performed an autopsy told authorities this would not have produced the injuries he found. He indicated her death, which he classified as homicide, was caused as a result of traumatic head injuries, multiple contusions of the extremities and the trunk of the body, traumatic injuries to the external sexual organs and rectum peritonitis and rupture of the stomach. The doctor also concluded, based on the child's body temperature when she arrived in the ER and other evidence, that she was likely dead before 2:30 a.m.

During a press conference Wednesday, Worthington Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey said he could not rule out the possibility of additional arrests in this case. So far, no other arrests have been made.