Police arrested a Utah couple and charged them with murder after the woman’s infant son died from injuries that authorities say are indicative of abuse.
Though the mother, 26-year-old Maria Elena Sullivan, is not suspected of directly abusing the baby, officials said that she was complicit in her boyfriend, 21-year-old Dylan James Kitzmiller’s alleged violent behavior, reports KSTU.
Sullivan was arrested on a fugitive warrant at a Georgia hospital upon seeking treatment.
“Both of them were charged because the girlfriend indicated that there was a level of abuse that was going on, she was aware of this abuse, and she took no steps to stop this or to take the child to safety,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, according to KSTU.
The boy was born healthy at five pounds four ounces on Sept. 4 and died on Sept. 17 weighing only four pounds eight ounces, having lost 14 percent of his body mass. He had cuts and bruises on his face and body as well as a spinal fracture, broken rib and what officials called “massive” swelling in his brain.
Sullivan told police that on Sept. 17, she spoke on the phone to a friend about trying to escape her boyfriend’s alleged abuse while leaving the boy in his care. When she saw the pair again, she said her baby was wearing only a diaper, and Kitzmiller moved the infant’s legs “in a rough weird bicycle thing” before telling his girlfriend to put the boy to sleep and that he’d be fine.
“Wow, that’s frightening, really frightening,” neighbor Kristen Peterson said. “You never really know what’s going on two or three houses down from you.”
Later that night, she reportedly heard her son gasping for air, so she picked him up and pinched him to try and get a response.
“She stated she heard the baby gasp a few more times, then he stopped breathing,” reads a portion of the charging documents, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She called 911 when the baby was in cardiac arrest, though emergency responders were unable to save him.
The documents state that Klitzmiller would throw the baby in the hair, move his arms and legs in a rough manner and cover his nose and mouth “for a few seconds” when he would cry. The suspect also reportedly swaddled the baby face down and grabbed him by the arm so hard that his head would jerk backward.
Both Klitzmiller and Sullivan have been charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse as second-degree felonies, notes KSTU.