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January 16, 2013

Father stands charged with first-degree murder of infant daughter

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Father stands charged with first-degree murder of infant daughter
Attorney Richard Lustig, left, and Kenneth Michael Little listen to testimony during Little’s pretrial on charges he murdered his infant daughter.

The father of a 3-month-old baby found face-down on a basement floor Oct. 22 faces four felony counts after a judge said there was enough evidence for the trial to go forward.

Kenneth Michael Little, 25, will face charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and first-degree child abuse after Judge William Bolle bound him over on all four charges in 52-4 District Court Jan. 9. Little appeared in court in orange prison garb and belly chains and showed little emotion during testimony from the lead detective on the case and the medical examiner.

“The evidence most significant is the statement made by the defendant, himself, he made after he was advised of his rights,” Bolle said. “By his own words, he admitted he struck his daughter in the head twice. … There is enough to bind him over on all four counts.”

According to reports, police were summoned to the home on Stratford, in the Maple and Dequindre area, on a report of an unresponsive 3-month-old girl. Police said the child’s mother, who was hysterical, met police outside the home and directed officers to the basement of the home, where the baby was lying on a rug on the floor of a bedroom, as the father stood several feet away. A number of people lived in the home. Little and his wife moved into the basement of the home after they lost their home to foreclosure, according to police.

Alliance Mobile Health emergency medical service technicians arrived with police and began CPR efforts. They immediately transported the baby to St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital’s Oakland Center.

The baby was pronounced dead just after 3 a.m.

Little and his wife called police Oct. 22 and asked what the cause of death for the infant, Kenadlyn, was, said Kristine Shuler, the detective in charge of the case. The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death blunt-force trauma to the head.

The couple arrived at Troy Police Headquarters at about 2:30 p.m. Oct. 22. Police offered condolences, then spoke with the couple separately, Shuler said.

Little was employed as a security guard and worked the midnight shift Oct. 20. He said he had gotten about four hours of sleep Oct. 21. 

On Oct. 22, his wife said, she left the baby and the couple’s older son in the care of her husband at 12:45 a.m. so she could take her sister to the emergency room at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, Shuler said.

Shuler said that Little told police that the infant, who had been born six weeks prematurely, was fussy at times and, that day,  “she had been doing nothing but crying, crying, crying.” 

Shuler said that it was difficult for police to get a consistent timeline from Little of his activities,  and that he gave police different versions of what happened that night.

In one version, he told police he was tapping the infant on her back while he held her on his shoulder, when she went limp in his arms. In another version, he said the baby’s head could have hit the wall. He also said he held a towel over the baby’s mouth to muffle her screaming. He then reportedly told police he had “panicked.”

Police read him his rights, and he said he understood them and did not request an attorney, Shuler said. He then admitted to striking the infant twice in the head.

“He said he was at his wits’ end and frustrated with the constant crying,” Shuler said. “He said he had just lost it.”

Little said that, right after he struck the baby, she let out a “terrible, bloody-murder scream,” Shuler said.

“He said several times he was responsible for the murder of his daughter and said he blamed himself,” Shuler said.

According to police reports, Little said he performed CPR on the infant and waited 15 minutes before he called 911.

Oakland County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kanu Virani testified that he also found three healing rib fractures close to the spine that were three to six weeks old, as well as another head injury four to eight weeks old on the infant.

The death was ruled a homicide, and the injury was the result of an action or neglect of action, Virani said.

“She could not have caused them herself,” he said, noting that a 3-month-old baby cannot sit properly by herself and cannot lift her head. “Any normal activity taking care of a baby would not cause the injury. It was something with enough force — a human hand is quite possible.”

He added that when they see various stages of injuries in the same infant, it indicates abuse.

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Sara Pope Stearns said the first-degree murder charge applies, and she cited a recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court in a case where a mother left two children locked in a hot car for three hours in Southfield while she had her hair done. Those children died, in a manner the court defined as “knowingly and intentionally.”

“He knew severe physical harm would be caused by his actions,” Pope Stearns said. “He knows this child is premature and requires extra care. Her mother rushed the child to the hospital in August.”

Pope Stearns said Little signed discharge papers with instructions about head injuries after the August incident. “He was already on notice,” she said.

She also pointed out there were two other adults in the home at the time of the incident, and he could have asked them to help him, or “he could have put her in her crib and left her.”

“The only thing shown here is involuntary manslaughter,” Little’s attorney Richard Lustig said.  “You are putting the other injuries on him,” he said. “That’s not fair.”

Bolle continued Little’s bond. He remains in the Oakland County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned in Oakland County Circuit Court Jan. 22.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.