Complaint: Uncle Left Baby to Buy Drugs Before Fatal Fire

Baihly Warfield
August 07, 2017 07:54 PM

The uncle of the baby who was killed in a Tower house fire last week has been charged with second degree manslaughter and more. 

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Jesse Lee Bonacci-Koski was supposed to be watching Bentley Joe Lewis Koski, his 11-month-old nephew. When he was arrested, he told authorities he left the child at home to go buy controlled substances. 

Bonacci-Koski is charged with two counts of second degree manslaughter, one count of motor vehicle theft, and one count of possession of methamphetamine. 

Bentley's grandmother, Pam Swanson, told Eyewitness News in a message, "He was greatly loved by our whole family. He was the whole world to his parents and family." 

Police were called to the structure fire at 813 Third Street North in Tower at about 7:45 a.m., Tuesday, August 2. An hour later, after the fire was contained, a Tower firefighter found Bentley in a crib in a bedroom on the second floor. He was unresponsive, and emergency personnel could not revive him. 

According to the criminal complaint, the medical examiner determined the baby had soot in his esophagus, stomach and “upper and lower airways.” 

The parents had been gone for the night, and they told authorities they left Bentley with the father’s brother, Bonacci-Koski. 

A couple hours later, police got a call about a suspicious person at Benchwarmers Bar and Grill in Tower. The caller reporter he was muddy and wearing a green shirt and camouflage pants, the complaint says. He left a dog behind, which authorities say was the Koski family dog. 

Authorities say Bonacci-Koski stole a Jeep Cherokee, abandoned it in a ditch and went into the woods in Pike Township. He came out of the woods in front of a St. Louis County Sheriff’s deputy and was arrested. 

He had outstanding felony warrants for probation violation and a restraining order violation. 

According to court documents, Bonacci-Koski let officers search his backpack, where they found a syringe and spoon with residue of "controlled substances." Bonacci-Koski tested positive for methamphetamine.  

He told them he had left Bentley at home for about two hours, and when he saw firetrucks heading toward the home, he went back. When he saw firefighter there, he allegedly turned and left without speaking to any of them. 

St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin told Judge Gary Pagliaccetti he would seek more time than Minnesota sentencing guidelines because of the “particular vulnerability” of an 11-month-old child.

Bonacci-Koski told the judge in court Monday that he is not employed, he has no income and he is receiving medical assistance. 

Authorities have not released the cause of the fire but said it is not believed to be arson. 

His criminal record includes previous convictions for second degree assault, fifth degree assault and fleeing police. 

Bail was set at $200,000. Bonacci-Koski is expected to appear in court again Aug. 21. 


Baihly Warfield

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