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Police: Fayetteville man facing murder charges for death of infant girl

26-year-old Charles Dugan told investigators he could not remember what happened to the infant leading up to her death, according to police.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A Fayetteville man is facing second-degree murder charges for the death of a four-week-old infant who suffered blunt force trauma ahead of her death. 

Sgt. Anthony Murphy with the Fayetteville Police Department shared a police report stating that officers were called to an apartment on Kantz Drive at the end of August in response to an infant in cardiac arrest. Once on the scene, officers joined Central EMS and Fayetteville firefighters in life-saving measures before transporting the child to Arkansas Children's Hospital-Northwest. The infant was later pronounced dead at the hospital. 

While conducting an investigation, officers spoke with the child's mother and father, identified as 26-year-old Charles Dugan. The mother told officers she had left their baby alone with Dugan while she went to work, something she noted was not uncommon. She said she did not return home from work until being contacted by Dugan. 

Sgt. Murphy says Dugan's first statement to investigators was that he had placed the infant in her crib while swaddled in a blanket and propped a bottle in her mouth by using another blanket. He said he then went to the bathroom and returned 10 minutes later to find the child "choking" on milk. Dugan told investigators that he tried to pat her on the back, clear her airway, and dial 911. However, Dugan's call did not connect, and he took the child to a neighbor's apartment, who called 911 and attempted CPR. 

The infant was taken to the Washington County Coroner's Officer and eventually transported to the Arkansas State Crime Lab in Little Rock for an autopsy. 

Over three months later, the Fayetteville Police Department was contacted by the medical examiner's office about injuries located on the girl during the autopsy. Sgt. Murphy reports that the medical examiner's office said that the cause of death had been identified as closed head injuries caused by blunt force trauma, with contributions from recent rib fractures. The child's death was ruled a homicide. 

After learning about the injuries and cause of death, investigators contacted the mother of the child and Dugan. During an interview with police, Dugan's recollection of events changed, according to Sgt. Murphy. Dugan said he had fallen asleep with the child on his chest and believed she had dropped to the floor. Dugan was unsure if the infant had struck the coffee table near the sofa or landed directly on the floor but said he woke up to the infant screaming on the floor. He went on to say the incident happened 30-45 minutes before he put the child in her crib. Despite being surrounded by emergency crews the day of the incident, Dugan failed to mention the child falling from his chest. Sgt. Murphy says Dugan provided "a litany of self-serving excuses, putting his own interests above the health of the child." 

Days later, investigators met with Dugan and the child's mother again at their apartment to measure the fall distance. During the investigation, the mother told police that Dugan often suffers from sleepwalking and that he might have sleepwalked leading up to the child's death. She also noted that he once attempted to "body slam" her during a sleepwalking episode. Dugan did not remember if he had sleepwalked and did not remember if he had awoken standing or seated when the child fell, according to Sgt. Murphy.  

On Dec. 16, Dugan was arrested for unrelated charges stemming from an alleged battery at a local hospital. He was transported to the Fayetteville Police Department the next day and issued his Miranda Rights. While there, he said he did not remember what had happened the night the infant died in August, which differed from his earlier statement that he did not know what had happened to the infant. 

Duggan is facing second-degree murder charges and is currently housed at the Washington County Detention Center. 

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