WINDOM - A Windom man was arrested and faces charges related to what is being referred to as the “unintentional” death of his eight-a-half-week-old baby, although a child abuse pediatrician’s evaluation appears to question some of the defendant’s claims.
A complaint warrant was filed in late November against Zachariah J. Baker, 25, after a more than a four-month investigation and autopsy report found that his infant child suffered cardiac arrest - likely as a result of a fatal head injury - in July. The baby’s gender is unknown.
Baker faces second-degree unintentional murder and third-degree murder charges, both felonies. The second-degree unintentional murder charge (the more serious offense) is punishable by up to 40 years imprisonment.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Baker was being held at the Cottonwood County Jail in Windom on $500,000 conditional and $1 million unconditional bail.
According to the criminal complaint, Baker had woke twice in the middle of the night on July 8 to tend to the crying infant. The second time, around 5 a.m., Baker claimed to have put down the fussy infant to fetch a bottle.
When he returned, the infant was unresponsive, he claimed. The infant was rushed to the emergency room, where it was pronounced dead, and the Windom Police Department began an investigation.
After being informed an autopsy would be ordered, Baker told law enforcement that he remembers bumping the baby’s head on the crib when he went to retrieve the infant, but did not know exactly where it was bumped because of darkness. Baker guessed about half an hour passed between bumping the baby's head on the crib and when it was noticed to be unresponsive.
In an interview the next day, Baker told law enforcement that his hand, which was positioned behind the infant’s head/neck area, slipped, and the baby’s head fell against the side of the crib. Baker then laid the infant on the couch, partially sitting up, while he went to retrieve the bottle. When Baker returned, the infant seemed groggy and would not take the bottle.
When questioned about prior head injuries or bumps, Baker told law enforcement that he had also previously dropped his cell phone on the infant’s forehead when he was using the phone’s flashlight. On another occasion, he said, he scraped the infant’s head against a wall as he was using the stairs.
Questions and concerns regarding Baker’s temperament also arose throughout the duration of the investigation.
The complaint indicates Baker told law enforcement he thinks he may have accidentally caused his infant’s death.The autopsy
The final autopsy report was received Nov. 15. The report, completed by the Ramsey County medical examiner, contended that the infant had closed head trauma due to “blunt force trauma to the head.” The detailed medical report in the complaint includes several areas in which hemorrhaging occurred.
A child abuse pediatrician at Midwest Children’s Resource Center was consulted. As part of that doctor’s evaluation, he said the infant’s injuries did not appear consistent with what Baker had reported happening. The doctor’s report further states that the infant’s injuries are not consistent with a strike to the head that would be part of routine care or minor accidental trauma.
“It is most consistent with significant violence that may or may not include impact,” the doctor’s comments in the complaint states. “If the victim’s death is the result of a strike to the head, a caregiver would know that handling an infant in such a manner would be dangerous and would likely end with injury.”
Baker is scheduled to make a Dec. 11 initial appearance in Cottonwood County District Court.