State to amend charge against man accused of killing 2-year-old, injuring baby

Published 4:24 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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The prosecutor of the Albert Lea man charged with killing a 2-year-old boy in July at Trailside Apartments said Tuesday she planned to amend one charge in the case to include assault for the second child who was found in the vehicle with the man when he was arrested.

Austin Michael Navarro, 25, previously faced one count of second-degree murder and one count of child endangerment.

Mary Russell, assistant Minnesota attorney general, said the state intends to change the second count from child endangerment to third-degree assault of a victim under 4.

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The first charge is tied to the death of Ahziyas Dampha, 2, who died by blunt force injuries, according to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office. An autopsy revealed multiple bruises, abrasions, broken ribs and internal bleeding resulting from a lacerated liver and pancreas, according to prosecutors.

As of press time, the amended criminal complaint had not yet been filed.

The original court complaint stated the 2-year-old child was left in Navarro’s care while his mother was working, along with a 3-month old baby that the woman and Navarro had in common.

The mother told police she had received the first of several text messages at 10:02 a.m. July 6, stating the 2-year-old had fallen down the stairs. She exchanged text messages asking for photos of the child to evaluate his condition and it wasn’t until more than an hour and a half later that he reportedly sent a photo showing the child with blood on his lips, severe bruising and appearing unresponsive.

After seeing pictures of the injuries, the mother left work, and when she attempted to walk into the house she had to force the door open because a knife had been wedged in the door.

She found Navarro upstairs locked behind a bedroom door with their 3-month-old baby in his arms and her 2-year-old child laying on the bed unresponsive.

When officers were dispatched to the apartments, at 504 James Ave., an officer was informed that Navarro had left the scene.

The officer stopped Navarro in the vehicle about nine blocks away, and Navarro reportedly stated he had left the scene because he was scared. The 3-month-old baby was also in the vehicle.

District Court Judge Ross Leuning said state law allows criminal complaints to be amended even during the trial as investigations are usually ongoing.

The hearing on Tuesday also addressed other motions, including one to suppress all confessions, admissions or statements made by Navarro in jail calls and visitations with his mother. That motion has since been withdrawn.

Another motion dealt with communication via text message between Navarro and his lawyer, Dominique J. Navarro, that the lawyer said were protected attorney-client conversations. Both sides agreed they would be redacted from possible exhibits.

The defense attorney said he has also filed a probable cause challenge for both of the two original charges and said he intended to address that also with the new charge.

With the new charge being amended, Leuning gave Dominique Navarro one month to file his updated probable cause challenge, after which the prosecution would have time to address that and then the defense would have time to respond again. At the latest, the judge will take the issue under advisement by July 8.

The pre-trial in the case has been slated for Sept. 18 with the jury trial for Nov. 4.

Russell said the state and defense have had ongoing plea negotiations, but they have not been able to reach an agreement.

The defense lawyer said during the hearing that his client intends to rely on an intoxication defense during the trial.