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Fraga indicted on murder one

WORTHINGTON -- Josue Robles Fraga, accused of killing his 2-year-old niece, was indicted Friday by a grand jury on a first-degree murder charge, as well as two second-degree murder charges.

Under Minnesota law, a county attorney cannot charge a person with first-degree murder; that must be done by a grand jury, a panel of citizens that hears testimony in a case. The grand jury began hearing testimony on Thursday and went late into the evening hours on Friday, not finishing until 9 p.m.

"It all relates to evidence -- in this case, the most important piece being the final autopsy protocol along with the DNA analysis," said Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore, in explaining why months passed before the grand jury indictment. Fraga had previously been charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of criminal sexual conduct.

Fraga was arrested in March, several days after he and his wife brought Samantha Fraga, his niece, to the emergency room. At the time they brought her in, Samantha had no pulse and a body temperature of 84 degrees. She was pronounced dead at 6:18 a.m.

An initial exam revealed evidence of trauma to her head and perianal/rectal area. Autopsy results showed a multitude of injuries, including multiple contusions of the extremities and trunk of the body, peritonitis and rupture of the stomach. During an initial interview, Fraga claimed he had gotten up early and saw Samantha's 3-year-old brother jump on her stomach, something the autopsy doctor said would not have caused the stomach rupture. Fraga told authorities he did not see any injuries other than small bruises on the girl when he diapered her before bedtime.

Fraga's brother, who lives in Texas, had turned over custody of Samantha and her brother to Fraga and his wife. The children's mother is deceased.

Fraga made his first appearance on the first-degree murder charge Monday in Nobles County District Court, where he sat quietly dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit issued by the Nobles County Jail, where he has been housed since his arrest in March.

Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp, who is in charge of the prosecution of the case with the assistance of Moore, asked Judge Jeffrey Flynn to raise Fraga's bail amount from $500,000 to $750,000 because of the new charge.

"He now faces life in prison without the possibility of parole," Klumpp said.

Conditions of his original bail disallowed contact with children younger than the age of 18, including his own, and no leaving the state without approval.

Klumpp told the judge Fraga had been arrested while driving around Adrian, and it is believed he was trying to locate his children at that time. Several of his children and his nephew were removed from the home after Samantha's death. His brother and his wife were in the vehicle with him at the time of his arrest.

Klumpp also spoke of an alleged conversation between Fraga and a mechanic, in which Fraga asked the mechanic to take a look at a van he wanted to use to drive back to Mexico because of a family emergency -- a trip his wife apparently knew nothing about when questioned by law enforcement.

"It is our belief the defendant was planning to leave the country as law enforcement was getting ready to point a finger at him," Klumpp said.

Public defender Christina Wietzema, who is representing Fraga with co-counsel Cecil Naatz, said she had not been given any evidence regarding Klumpp's claims, but "my client, at this point, denies the accusations."

Because Fraga had not been able to meet bail when it was set at $500,000, Wietzema asked that it not be raised, but Flynn set the bail at $750,000 with the same conditions, or at $1 million with no conditions.

The charges against Fraga are as follows: first-degree murder -- criminal sexual conduct, second-degree murder -- criminal sexual conduct and second-degree murder -- first-degree assault.