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Criminal complaint filed in death

WORTHINGTON -- The criminal complaint against 34-year-old Josue Fraga of Worthington, who is accused of causing the death of his 2-year-old niece, Samantha Fraga, offers more detail about the case, as well as the investigation by the Worthington Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

The document, filed in Nobles County District Court Wednesday night, charges Fraga with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. It states Fraga allegedly caused the death of the toddler without intent while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense.

According to the complaint, the child was brought to the emergency room at 5:35 a.m. by her aunt and uncle, Josue Fraga. The couple told hospital staff the girl and her brother had been placed with them months ago. They said they had heard fighting in the children's bedroom and saw the brother jumping on the girl in bed, adding that she was unresponsive.

Emergency room staff tried to revive the child but were unsuccessful. Authorities were contacted to investigate the suspicious death of a child.

The child's body had multiple injuries and bruises on her body, and her stomach was distended. A provisional autopsy later showed the child died as a result of traumatic head injuries, contusions, peritonitis and rupture of the stomach. The doctor who performed the autopsy, after reviewing the initial body temperature at the emergency room, estimated a time of death before 2:30 a.m.

"The time of death is significant in that the only adult in the home prior to 2:30 a.m. on March 20 was Josue Fraga," the complaint states.

When questioned, the aunt allegedly said she had gotten off work at 2:30 a.m. and was picked up by her husband. She was later awakened by Fraga, who said there was a problem with the little girl. She went into the bedroom where all six children slept and saw Fraga holding the girl. She said that before taking the girl to the hospital, she put a diaper on the child. When shown pictures of the trauma to the child, the aunt said the girl had not looked like that when she put the diaper on.

Fraga told a detective he had gotten up around 5:30 a.m. and heard the girl's 3-year-old brother talk to the girl. He claims he went into the bedroom and found the girl on the floor.

During an interview with a BCA agent, Fraga said he checked the children before he left to pick up his wife at 2:30 a.m. They were all OK, but he suspected the 3-year-old boy was awake and faking sleep. After picking up his wife at work, he said they came straight home and went to bed within the hour. The complaint states that when asked if the girl had been crying at all during the night of March 19 or the early morning hours of March 20, "Fraga mumbled that he did not know." He said he changed the child's diaper before bed and had not seen any trauma to her bottom.

He told the agent he had gotten up around 5:30 a.m. and heard the 3-year-old boy say the girl's name, so he went into the bedroom to check. He said he saw the boy jump on the girl and do a "knee-drop" on her. He grabbed the girl, who felt cool and "loose," then woke his wife.

One of the Fraga children was interviewed at Child's Voice and said he woke up during the night to use the bathroom and noticed the girl was not in her bunk. His other siblings, he said, were in their beds, his mother was awake doing dishes and his father was watching television. He saw a clock, which said 4:18 a.m.

The doctor who performed the autopsy was asked if a 3-year-old jumping on the girl could account for the injuries noted. His opinion was that it would not. He said the ruptured stomach was caused by compression to the abdominal area, rather than a blow from something like a fist or a foot. He told the agent he believed the child would have been crying loudly as a result of the pain from the stomach injury.

If convicted on all counts, Fraga faces 110 years incarceration. He is scheduled for a bail hearing at 9:30 a.m. today.