Defendant in toddler murder case moves to dismiss charges; state argues for aggravated sentence

(ABC 6 News) – A man accused of murdering an Albert Lea toddler moved to dismiss the court case Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, Austin Michael Navarro’s defense moved to dismiss the case, and suppress any admissions or statements Navarro made in custody, claiming that the Albert Lea man’s constitutional rights were violated during his arrest.

The motion claims there was insufficient probable cause for Navarro’s arrest, which resulted in 2nd-degree murder and felony child endangerment charges.

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If the motion is accepted, any statements made by Navarro during the investigation would be null and void, as using them would violate Navarro’s rights.

Navarro, 25, has been held in the Freeborn County Jail on $500,000 bail with conditions, or $1,000,000 conditional bail since his arrest on July 6.

““But why would you’ve done that to a baby?”

The motion to suppress Navarro’s statements and admissions is particularly relevant to the prosecution, which moved in August to include phone calls the suspect made immediately after his arrest as evidence that Navarro had abused Ahziyas Dampha.

Freeborn County Court filing Aug. 23, 2023

Between July 7 and 10, Navarro spoke to a woman several times over the phone and allegedly described physically injuring Ahziyas Dampha and another child.

Freeborn County Court filing Aug. 23, 2023

The prosecution moved to enter the conversations into evidence, as phone conversations made from jail are recorded.

Freeborn County Court filing Aug. 23, 2023

Emma Sullivan, Ahziyas Dampha’s mother, alleged in August filings that Navarro had been physically violent in the past, especially when he was “coming down” from methamphetamine.

Previous reporting revealed that Navarro had been convicted of multiple counts of assault, including domestic assault.

RELATED: Court documents detail Albert Lea toddler death investigation, history of domestic assaults – ABC 6 News –

ABC 6 News previously reported that shortly before Navarro’s arrest, he had been left in charge of Ahziyas and a 12-week-old infant.

When Sullivan returned home and called 9-1-1, Navarro allegedly left with the infant.

According to the August filings, law enforcement stopped Navarro’s vehicle and took the infant to the hospital, where medical professionals examined him and found “signs of physical abuse, including numerous broken ribs.”

Medical professionals noted that there were signs of healing on some of the fractures which indicates that the fractures were sustained during more than one incident,” court documents allege.

Freeborn County Court filing Aug. 23, 2023

The prosecution also alleged that various people who watched Ahziyas noticed bruises on him, particularly on his sides and ribs.

Two women told law enforcement they’d noticed hand-shaped marks on the toddler.

In August, the prosecution moved for an aggravated sentence, should Navarro be convicted of the crimes, citing his position of authority over Ahziyas Dampha, the victim’s age (2), and the “particular cruelty” allegedly evidenced by Dampha’s injuries at death.

According to court documents, an autopsy showed that Dampha suffered multiple bruises, abrasions, broken ribs, and internal bleeding from a lacerated liver and pancreas.

The medical examiner ruled the cause of death was multiple blunt force injures and the manner of death was homicide.

Freeborn County Court agreed to schedule a contested evidence hearing for Navarro after the motion was filed Tuesday, Dec. 12.

The new hearing has not yet been scheduled.