Bismarck man sentenced for murder of infant daughter

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A screenshot of Jose Rivera-Rieffel at his sentencing hearing on Friday, Aug. 7. Rivera-Rieffel received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

BISMARCK — A Bismarck man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday, Aug. 7, for the murder of his 12-week-old daughter.

In the early morning hours of April. 19, 2018, Jose Rivera-Rieffel, 23, was the sole caretaker of his two daughters, and his newborn received injuries that ultimately resulted in her death, according to court documents.

Doctors and hospital staff said the injuries were indicative of "non-accidental trauma," and a later forensic examination found the newborn's cause of death was delayed consequences of blunt force trauma to the head and that the injury occurred due to assault, court documents said.

At the time, Rivera-Rieffel was already on probation after pleading guilty to child abuse of his other infant daughter the year prior.

Rivera-Rieffel said his infant was hungrier than usual on the night she sustained the head injuries, according to court documents, but he declined to tell police how she was hurt.


South Central District Judge Gail Hagerty said during the sentencing that Rivera-Rieffel has shown "absolutely no remorse" for his actions.

"I'm concerned with the terrible abuse suffered by this victim leading up to her death," Hagerty said. "I think the evidence we heard would indicate that this child had been abused."

"There isn't any real possibility of rehabilitation for someone who shows no remorse or no willingness to take responsibility for conduct which causes harm," she said.

The newborn's mother, Jennyfer Lopez, was also arrested in April 2018 after the baby was admitted to the hospital. She was charged with two counts of child neglect for leaving her children in Rivera-Rieffel's care.

Rivera-Rieffel and Lopez declined to make any comments at the sentencing hearing. Hagerty said Lopez is also a victim in this case, as she left her children in Rivera-Rieffel's care because she had to work.

"It's really a heart-breaking story in many ways and I think she was a victim too in so many ways," Hagerty said Friday.

Rivera-Rieffel can appeal his life sentence.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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