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MN BCA: Cause of Death Determined; Homicide due to Blunt Force Trauma

March 17, 2019 02:03 AM

(ABC 6 News) – UPDATE:  The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in a statement said, the preliminary cause and manner of death of the missing 2-year-old victim, Noelani Robinson has been determined to be homicide due blunt force trauma to the head.

On Saturday, BCA said they are investigating the death of a young girl who was found dead in Steele County Friday evening. The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner's Office has preliminarily identified the body as that of Noelani Robinson. 

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In the statement, BCA said, Noelani Robinson was taken by a man, Dariaz Higgins, identified by Milwaukee Police as her father. Noelani was believed to be abducted by Higgins and her disappearance prompted an Amber Alert in Wisconsin. On Wednesday, Higgins was taken into custody by the Milwaukee Police Department at a Milwaukee motel. Milwaukee Police say he is being held on "suspicion of murder related to the shooting death of Sierra Robinson, Noelani's mother."

BCA also reported that their agents and other crime scene personnel responded to the scene of the crime in Steele County and worked overnight to collect evidence. They also said that BCA agents and other crime scene investigators were at a hotel in Austin, Minnesota executing a search warrant where they believed "Higgins stayed at one point during the past week."

BCA said details of when, where, and who killed Noelani will be determined during the course of their investigation.

Steele and Mower County Sheriff's Offices, and the Austin, Blooming Prairie and Miwaukee police departments are all working with BCA in the investigation.

11:30 a.m.

Milwaukee police, in a press conference, said they believe that the body found on Highway 218 in Steele County is that of Noelani Robinson.  Noelani is the 2-year-old Wisconsin girl who was the subject of an Amber Alert in Wisconsin earlier this week.  On Thursday, authorities in Austin told ABC 6 News they received information that the child was in the Austin area within the last 30 days. 

On Saturday around 10:00 a.m., at the press conference,  Milwaukee Police chief Alonso Morales said Steele County authorities and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are now helping in the death investigation of Noelani. 

Morales said that a Department of Public Works employee in Steele County was driving home on Friday around 7:00 p.m. and noticed something out of ordinary on Highway 218.  The employee saw a blanket on the side of the road and police say they believe, inside the blanket, wrapped, is the body of a child – Noelani Robinson. The body wrapped in a blanket was found on Highway 218,15 miles north of Austin. The police chief also said, they believe the death did not happen in the last 24 hours but the body had been there for quite some time which Morales said is, “consistent with the time” the suspect was in Minnesota. 

Morales also said that they still have to wait for autopsy results which they expect to be released on Monday.  Police also said the type of charges that will be filed will be determined by the outcome of the investigation.

The police chief also expressed that although this is not the conclusion they wanted he is thankful for the work of all the agencies involved.  Morales credited the work of the following local agencies:  Steele County Sheriff’s Office, Mower County Sheriff’s Office, Austin Police Department, Blooming Prairie Police Department, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Dariaz Higgins, the suspect, believed to be connected in this case, is in custody in Milwaukee, WI.

Higgins, who is the father of Noelani, is accused of killing her mother and abducting her. Higgins was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a Milwaukee motel.

In the press conference, Milwaukee police chief also mentioned that Higgins had given police false information regarding the girl’s whereabouts, "The search to find Noelani has become a game to him," Morales said. The police chief also described Higgins as a "cold-blooded killer."

Morales said Higgins has connections to Miami, Las Vegas, and Kansas City.

According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension website, Higgins has criminal records in Mower and Olmsted counties. He had run-ins with officers in Austin and Rochester within the last 16 years.

The FBI offered a $5,000 reward for information leading them to Noelani.

In Milwaukee, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the detective in Milwaukee, together with a couple of investigators from Minnesota are working in the investigation of this case. Two investigators from Wisconsin are also in Minnesota working with local agencies regarding this case.

9:30 a.m.

An ABC affiliate in Wisconsin has confirmed through several family members that the missing girl who was the subject of an Amber Alert has been found dead in Minnesota.

WISN in Milwaukee, Wisconsin sent a statement to ABC 6 News early this morning saying that “We at WISN have confirmed through several family members and a family spokesperson, that Noelani Robinson… has been found dead.” 

WISN also said that Milwaukee Police is scheduled to conduct a press conference at 10:00 a.m. Saturday regarding this case.

Milwaukee police reported they arrested Dariaz Higgins on Wednesday afternoon on Milwaukee’s northwest side.  They also said that a second person is in custody for assisting a fugitive. Police say Dariaz was wanted for killing the mother of his child.

Earlier this week, authorities in Austin, Minnesota say they have received information that the child was in the Austin area within the last 30 days. An Amber Alert in Wisconsin for Noelani is active. Higgins is charged with fatally shooting Sierra Robinson and wounding another woman Monday afternoon.

EARLIER REPORT:

A body was found Friday night in a ditch on Highway 218 in rural Steele County.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is working the death investigation with the Steele County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Lon Thiele didn't release any other information, pending identification of the deceased.

(With reports from AP and Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN)

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