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Murder suspect appears in court

WORTHINGTON -- Josue Robles Fraga, accused of murdering his 2-year-old niece in March, made a short court appearance Tuesday during an omnibus hearing in Nobles County District Court.

An omnibus hearing, used to determine what evidence will be admissible at trial, can include issues such as searches, seizures of evidence, confessions and prior criminal history. In this case, public defender Cecil Naatz is objecting to the evidence regarding a possibility of flight.

During a hearing in June, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp had asked a judge to raise the amount of Fraga's bail because Fraga had allegedly approached a mechanic after the death of the child but before his arrest, and expressed interest in getting a vehicle in good working shape so he could drive it to Mexico for a family emergency.

"Our belief is that the defendant was planning to leave the country," Klumpp said at the time.

Naatz and Klumpp were given two weeks to submit written arguments for the admittance or denial of the evidence in question.

Klumpp said he also planned to file a notice for aggravating factors, which he plans to have done within a week.

During Tuesday's hearing, Fraga sat quietly without saying a word. Dressed in the bright orange prisoner uniform of the Nobles County Jail, it is apparent he has lost a significant amount of weight since his arrest.

Fraga, charged with first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder, was taken into custody several days after he and his wife brought Samantha, his niece, into the emergency room in the early morning hours of March 20.

At the time, the child had no pulse and a body temperature of 84 degrees. She was pronounced dead at 6:18 a.m. Autopsy results showed a multitude of injuries, including head trauma, contusions, and rupture of the stomach. There was also trauma to the perianal/rectal area.

A warrant for Fraga's arrest was issued in the early evening March 26, and he was picked up by law enforcement in Adrian shortly afterward. It is thought he was driving around looking for his children, who had been removed from his household after Samantha's death. He was originally charged with second-degree murder, but on May 30, he was indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder. Samantha and her brother had been living in the Fraga household in Worthington after Fraga's brother from Texas had turned the two children over to his brother. During an initial interview, Fraga told authorities he had witnessed the 3-year-old boy jump on his sister's stomach, but the doctor who performed the autopsy said that could not have caused her stomach to rupture. Fraga also told authorities there were no injuries other than a few small bruises on the little girl when he had changed her diaper before putting her to bed.

Because some scientific evidence has recently become available, the remainder of the omnibus hearing was rescheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 20, which will give both prosecution and defense a chance to review the new material.