MAPLEWOOD, Minn. -- A 26-year-old Maplewood man is accused of murdering his girlfriend's 17-month-old girl earlier this week.
The Ramsey County Attorney's Office on Thursday announced Terrance Valdez Leslie is charged with second-degree murder in connection to the toddler's death.
Emergency responders were dispatched at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to the 1400 block of County Road B East on the report of a 17-month-old girl with significant burn injuries. Despite attempts to save her life, the victim died shortly after at the hospital.
According to the criminal complaint, Leslie was watching the child that evening as the mother was working. He told police that he was preparing a bath for the child and left the child in the bathroom while he tended to his dog. He said the child fell in the hot water, so he took the child out and called the child's mother.
Investigators said measurements of the temperature of the hot water from the bathtub did not appear hot enough to cause the degree of burns suffered by the victim. Additionally, the complaint says further injuries were found on the child "indicating ongoing physical abuse."
Both the mother and Leslie were initially arrested, but the mother has since been released. Police say there is no evidence to suggest she had any direct involvement in the child's death.
Through a search warrant, investigators were able to look through the content of Leslie's phone and found videos taken on the same day of the child's death. According to the complaint, the videos show him assaulting and yelling at the child, who appears injured.
Maplewood Police Department's Lt. Joe Steiner addressed the disturbing allegations during a news conference early Thursday afternoon.
"Very difficult. In my 22 years of law enforcement experience, I've never investigated a crime more disturbing or more heinous than this murder," Steiner said.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi also released a statement.
"Words cannot fully capture my feelings about what happened to this innocent and helpless young child. But know this - we will unrelentingly seek justice for her," Choi said.
Investigators interviewed the mother, who said Leslie and her had been dating for two to three months and have been living together for several weeks. She said Leslie physically abused her and had assaulted her while she was holding the child, but said that the child was physically fine when she left her with Leslie on Tuesday, the complaint said.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office deemed the death homicide, saying the child died of multiple traumatic injuries.
Leslie has a criminal record, including being convicted as an adult in 2017 on a count of ineligible to possess of firearm.
If convicted, Lesie could face up to 40 years in prison.
Domestic Violence Resources: For anonymous, confidential help, people can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224.
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