Updated: 08/29/2014 10:36 PM
Created: 08/29/2014 9:14 AM WDIO.com
Authorities have arrested a 26-year-old Hibbing man in connection with the 2012 death of his former girlfriend's two-year-old daughter.
Russell Shannon Johnson now faces a second degree murder charge.
Caroline Shenze Marie Medicine-Chavez died a few days after an incident in Virginia in March 2012. Authorities said the cause of death was head trauma.
According to the criminal complaint, Johnson was alone with the girl at the time. He had been dating the girl's mother. He told police that Caroline fell and hit her head.
The Virginia Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension started an extensive investigation, which they say became very complex and time consuming.
"We had our suspicions about Johnson, but we would have had a difficult time proving it in court," explained Chief Dennis Benz. "We never gave up though."
The case was stalled until authorities received some additional information in July of this year.
The St Louis County Attorney’s Office says a woman told investigators she had a conversation about the girl's death with Johnson. The woman said Johnson told her he was "cranky" on the day of the incident and that the girl was a "really whiny kid." He allegedly said he pushed the girl and she flew into a wall and hit her head.
After reviewing new interviews in the case, medical examiner Dr. Thomas Uncini determined that the manner of death was homicide.
Caroline's father told us on Friday that he is happy that the case has gotten to this point.
The authorities credit the family for pushing so hard to get justice for Caroline. There was even a Facebook page dedicated to her.
"I think that Caroline's family is very strong," said Chief Benz.
A check of court records shows a handful of crimes on Johnson's record, but nothing that rises to the level of a felony. However, he did fail to appear in court in Duluth earlier in August, and there was a warrant out for his arrest.
He was arrested, according to police, on Thursday near his parents home in Hibbing.
His public defender said his client maintains he is innocent. Johnson's next court appearance is September 15th.
The complaint said that Caroline was admitted to the emergency room just a few weeks before her death, because Johnson said she fell and hit her head. Also, in December, her mother noticed a bump on her head. Johnson told the mother Caroline had fallen off of a table.
St. Louis County Social Services opened a file on Caroline, but not until her death.
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