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Frustrated dad killed ‘fussy’ 1-year-old with ‘bear hug’ that dislocated neck ligaments as toddler gasped for air: Police

Damian Milton (Marion County Jail) and the home where he allegedly killed his daughter (WXIN screenshot)

Damian Milton (Marion County Jail) and the home where he allegedly killed his daughter (WXIN screenshot)

A 28-year-old father in Indiana was arrested for allegedly killing his 1-year-old daughter inside their family home after an examination revealed she died with ligaments torn from her neck and a swollen brain due to lack of oxygen. Damian Milton was taken into custody on Monday and charged with one count of battery resulting in the death of a person under age 14, a level 1 felony, in the brutal slaying of young Amaya Milton, jail records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

Milton called 911 on the morning of July 31 and had his daughter brought to the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health because she was having trouble breathing, according to a report from the Indianapolis Star. However, doctors quickly recognized that the toddler’s injuries — which appeared suspicious in nature — were life-threatening and contacted the Indianapolis Police Department.

The victim was admitted into the facility’s intensive care unit for treatment. Doctors said the child had suffered severe swelling of her brain that was likely caused by a lack of oxygen as well as ligament injuries to her neck. She also had multiple visible scratches on her face.

“The findings based off statements, medical injuries and history, were found to be highly suspicious for non-accidental/inflicted trauma,” police wrote in the affidavit, according to the Indy Star.

Detectives arrived at the scene and questioned Milton regarding his daughter’s injuries. During the interview, Milton reportedly told detectives that the child had been “fussy” all morning after she woke up, then suddenly started having difficulty breathing and became unresponsive. He also noted that she’d been taken to the same hospital about two weeks earlier because she had fallen and struck her head on the carpet. She had no noticeable injuries, but Milton initially tried to explain that his daughter’s injuries were caused by that fall, per the report.

Amaya’s mother had reportedly been at work on the day her daughter sustained the fatal injuries.

Unfortunately, Amaya remained in the ICU for six days before she succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead on Aug. 6. The hospital’s Child Protection Team reportedly determined that her injuries could have been caused by being violently shaken.

In a second interview with investigators, Milton allegedly admitted that at times he could be “mildly aggressive” with Amaya and explained that the scratches on her face were the result of him wiping tears from her face too harshly.

Eventually, Milton allegedly admitted that the day before she was hospitalized, he had become frustrated with Amaya and “yanked” her by the arm, picked her up, and gave her a “bear hug” with her nose and mouth pressed into his chest while placing one of his hands on the back of her neck and squeezing while she gasped for air, Indianapolis Fox affiliate WXIN reported, citing the affidavit.

Doctors reportedly told police that Amaya’s injuries, particularly the lack of oxygen to her brain, could have been caused by the bear hug. The child’s final cause of death has not yet been released by authorities.

Milton was taken into custody and is currently being held in the Marion County Jail on $80,000 bond as the prosecutor’s office makes a final determination regarding formal charges.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.