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Dad who ‘couldn’t handle any of it’ and smoked a cigarette as crying 3-month-old girl suffocated admits to 2009 murder

Benjamin Alexander Russell

Benjamin Alexander Russell, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office 

A Minnesota father who smothered his 3-month-old daughter with a pillow to “muffle her cries” as he smoked a cigarette in 2009 has formally pleaded guilty to murder.

Benjamin Alexander Russell, 38, petitioned to enter a guilty plea to second-degree murder on May 18, last Thursday, saying that his attorneys and the prosecution had agreed to a sentence of 138 months (11.5 years) in prison in exchange for a guilty to plea to the murder charge and the dismissal of a first-degree manslaughter charge.

The Coon Rapids Police Department responded to an Anoka County residence on Meadowood Curve NW back on the afternoon of Jan. 19, 2009 after learning that an infant, identified in the warrant as Child A, had stopped breathing. At the time, Benjamin Russell told investigators that he was watching the baby while the girl’s mother, “NK,” was at work.

Court documents said that Russell tried to pass off the child’s death as an accident.

“The Defendant said he put Child A down for a nap at 12:30 p.m. When he went back to check on her about an hour later, it appeared she had rolled over onto her stomach and was facedown on a blanket he had used to prop up her bottle. The Defendant said when he went to roll her onto her back, she did not respond,” the warrant said. “He gave her mouth-to‐mouth CPR until paramedics arrived. She was non-responsive.”

When an autopsy was performed, the cause of the girl’s death was “determined to be positional asphyxia/suffocation based in part on the history provided by the Defendant.”

Upon further review — and with the benefit of damning admissions from the defendant in 2022 about “the perfect alibi” — it became clear that the 2009 death was a murder, authorities said.

More Law&Crime coverage: Dad arrested for suffocating infant daughter after baby’s mom unknowingly gave him ‘the perfect alibi’

The defendant told the baby’s mother on July 4, 2022 that he killed the infant with a pillow when she would not stop crying.

“The Defendant explained that Child A would not stop crying while he was trying to lay her down for a nap and he ‘couldn’t handle any of it,” the warrant said. “He took a pillow and placed it over Child A’s face to ‘muffle the sound,'” left the room to smoke a cigarette, and “returned twelve minutes later.”

By then, the infant had turned “blue.”

“The Defendant told NK that she had given him the perfect alibi at the time of Child A’s death because she had told him to remove the pillows and blankets from Child A’s crib the night before,” documents said. “Since he knew the blankets shouldn’t have been there, he told the investigators he had used them to prop up a bottle and Child A rolled into the blanket.”

Court documents further revealed that Russell, prior to his arrest, had two young children under the age of 2 and that family viewed him as an overwhelmed parent who had said concerning things.

“[T]he Defendant has said he is angry he has them [the other children] when God knows what he did to Child A,” the warrant said. “On July 8,2022, the Defendant sent a text message to the mother of his youngest children. He wrote, ‘I don’t give a shit about those kids if you’re not a part of it [SIC].”

Now that the plea has been accepted, court records say Russell is scheduled to appear in Judge Jenny Walker Jasper’s Anoka County courtroom for sentencing at 3 p.m. on July 31.

Under Minnesota law, second-degree murder is punishable by no more than 40 years in prison.

Read the warrant and petition to enter a guilty plea.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.