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Man who viciously beat girlfriend’s toddler to death was ‘unemotional’ when questioned about incident: Police

Erik Adrian Blanco (Morrison County Sheriff's Office)

Erik Adrian Blanco (Morrison County Sheriff’s Office)

A 40-year-old man in Minnesota with a history of physically assaulting children was arrested this week for allegedly killing his girlfriend’s 14-month-old daughter, beating the toddler to death in July.

Erik Adrian Blanco was taken into custody on Wednesday and charged with one count of second-degree murder with intent and one count of second-degree murder without intent in the death of young Riverlynn VanNorman, online records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

According to a press release from the Little Falls Police Department, Riverlynn’s mother called 911 at about 9:23 p.m. on July 6 and told the emergency dispatcher that her daughter had stopped breathing. When authorities responded to the home in the 400 block of Third Street Northeast, they found the toddler not breathing and without a pulse.

Medics rushed the child to St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Little Falls, where she died. Riverlynn died due to “multiple head and neck injuries consistent with homicidal violence,” officials said.

Investigators said the victim and her mother had been temporarily staying with Blanco, who police identified as the mother’s boyfriend, for about a week. At the time Riverlynn suffered her fatal injuries, her mother was away from the home, and she was in the care of Blanco, officials said.

A copy of the probable cause affidavit obtained by the Star Tribune said that when officers first arrived at Blanco’s home, the victim’s mother was hysterical and “screaming her daughter’s name.” However, Blanco was reportedly seen sporadically praying “but was otherwise unemotional.”

In an interview with detectives, police reportedly said Blanco “was unable to provide an explanation for the homicidal injuries that caused Riverlynn’s death, saying simply that he did not do it.”

Police arrested Blanco and booked him into the Morrison County Jail for murder. He appeared in court on Friday, where a judge set his bond at $1 million, records show.

“After an exhaustive and thorough investigation into this case, investigators have arrested Erik Blanco in connection with this heart-breaking tragedy,” Little Falls Police Chief Greg Schimers said in a statement. “This case has deeply affected our community, and our thoughts and condolences go out to Riverlynn’s family during this unimaginably difficult time. The pain and sorrow they are feeling is shared by the entire community. We also would like to express our gratitude to the community for their patience, understanding, and support throughout the course of this long and difficult investigation.”

Court records show that Blanco has been convicted of numerous crimes, including felony domestic assault in 2017,  theft of a firearm or property valued at over $35,000 in 2016, receiving stolen property in 2014, assault with a dangerous weapon in 2014, disorderly conduct and obstruction in 2006, and assault causing great bodily harm in 2001, the latter of which involved Blanco beating a 1-year-old who suffered a skull fracture.

If convicted of second-degree murder, Blanco faces up to 40 years in prison.

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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.