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Charges: Northern Minnesota man threw 5-week-old 12 feet into air, killing her

AITKIN, Minn.-A 33-year-old Aitkin County man has been charged with allegedly killing his 5-week-old daughter in November.John Douglas Peterson of Palisade, Minn., was charged on Wednesday with one count of second-degree felony murder in State Di...

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One of the suspects in the Sioux Falls bank robbery Wednesday morning. Submitted photo by Sioux Falls police.
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AITKIN, Minn.-A 33-year-old Aitkin County man has been charged with allegedly throwing his 5-week-old daughter 12 feet into the air and across the kitchen floor, killing her in November.

John Douglas Peterson of Palisade, Minn., was charged on Wednesday with one count of second-degree felony murder in State District Court in Aitkin. If convicted, Peterson faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. He remained in the Aitkin County Jail Wednesday night and is expected to make his first court appearance today.

According to the criminal complaint:
Authorities were notified by the girl's mother at about 1 p.m. Nov. 18 that the girl was taking deep breaths and was barely breathing. Peterson told a first responder that the girl had been fussy, then began having breathing problems and stopped breathing completely. CPR was performed on the girl prior to the ambulance arriving at the house.

The girl was transferred from Riverwood Healthcare Center to Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where staff notified Aitkin County authorities on Nov. 19 that the girl had likely been the victim of physical abuse due to three separate bruises. She died on Nov. 21 as a result of "significant head injuries," the complaint states.

Peterson denied to Children's staff that the baby had fallen. He told Children's staff that the infant was lying on a blanket on the floor when his wife left the house. The infant's arms became stiff, and she was making gurgling noises and was gasping. He said he called for his wife's help when she arrived home and began CPR on the infant.


He later told Children's staff that he hadn't been truthful and that he had dropped her in the sink, where she hit the front of her head on the sink's divider and became unresponsive. A doctor from Midwest Children's Resource Center, a department at Children's specializing in child abuse, examined the girl and determined that her injuries couldn't have been caused by the fall Peterson described.

In an interview with authorities, Peterson said he lost his grip while trying to pick the girl up because she was fussy and flailing. He said the girl fell, hitting her head on the middle of the sink before ricocheting and hitting her head on the bottom of the sink. He said she was gasping for air when he picked her up.

However, when authorities pointed out that his explanation didn't match the girl's injuries, Peterson said the girl also fell from the sink to the floor and that "everything happened so fast and he was trying to prevent her from hitting the floor and because he was trying catch her, it was like he pushed and tried to grab her at the same time and she hit the ground and it was ugly," the complaint states.
In a meeting with authorities on Monday, Peterson again said the girl had rolled out of his arms while he was getting a bottle ready and hit her head on the sink before falling onto the floor.

After authorities pressed him, however, Peterson said he lied "because he was very scared," the complaint states.

He then said that, frustrated because he couldn't calm her down, he threw the baby "with a fair amount of force, like a basketball, approximately 12 feet through the air into the kitchen," where the girl "landed on her back and skidded across the floor approximately a foot before the back of her head struck the lip on the bottom of the cupboards," the complaint states. He said she was gasping for air after hitting the cupboards and he admitted that her skull fracture likely occurred when she hit the floor.

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