Father suspect in infant son’s death, DA says
A Grand Junction man is the prime suspect in an investigation of a child’s death and is “highly likely” to be charged with first-degree murder in the case, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger told a judge Wednesday.
Dartanin D. Mitchell, 33, 2910 Bunting Ave., Unit 11, was ordered held at Mesa County Jail on bonds totaling $110,000 after his arrest Tuesday in separate felony cases of second-degree burglary and first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft.
Arrest records have been filed under seal in both cases. Police and prosecutors Wednesday declined further comment about them.
Hautzinger’s statements were made during bond arguments in Mitchell’s cases before County Court Judge Bruce Raaum.
During his advisement Wednesday, Mitchell said he has been interviewed by investigators in connection with the death of his infant son, Lucius Lee Mitchell.
“I’m not a flight risk, and I’m aware of the investigation going on with my son,” Mitchell told the judge. “I’m still grieving for my son, and they arrested me 10 minutes after his funeral.”
Hautzinger said further charges are pending a written report in the case from the Mesa County Coroner’s Office.
The Grand Junction Police Department earlier this week said it still is investigating the death of Lucius, a baby who died June 12 at Children’s Hospital in Denver. Authorities have not specified how the boy was injured.
Lucius was the subject of a medical call handled by police May 27 in the 2900 block of Bunting Avenue. He was flown to Children’s Hospital.
According to a death notice published by The Daily Sentinel, Dartanin Mitchell and Jennifer Futrell of Grand Junction were the boy’s parents. Survivors include two sisters. The notice, published Tuesday, indicated private funeral services would be at a later date.
During Wednesday’s court appearance, Hautzinger told the judge Mitchell has a pair of prior felony convictions from 1994 for burglary and assault on a detention officer.
He is scheduled to be in court again June 28 for the burglary and auto theft cases.
From January 2010 through June 8, Mitchell worked as a specialist with Family First, a program that provides basic needs to parents, such as education and employment guidance. The program is operated by Hilltop Community Resources, according to Jackie Sievers, Hilltop’s director of child and family services.
Mitchell worked directly with parents who were involved in the Hilltop program through Mesa County School District 51 and Mesa County Department of Human Services, among other human-services-focused groups, Sievers said.
She declined to specify whether Mitchell was fired by the agency, but acknowledged law enforcement’s interest in the former employee.
“We are cooperating with law enforcement,” Sievers said.
Family First is housed at the Mesa County Workforce Center, 2897 North Ave.
In a criminal protection order issued in Mitchell’s burglary case by Judge Raaum on Wednesday, Mitchell was restrained from going to the Mesa County Workforce Center.
Mitchell’s name surfaced in at least two earlier child-abuse investigations.
He formerly was the husband of Erin Despain, 27, who was arrested in July 2007 by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department on suspicion of child abuse involving her then-2-month-old daughter.
Doctors said in an arrest warrant affidavit that the girl sustained several “non-accidental” injuries, a skull fracture along with multiple rib fractures and a leg fracture. The girl was brought to the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital by Despain and Mitchell in May 2007.
Despain pleaded guilty to child abuse in September 2008 and is serving an eight-year prison sentence.
According to court records, Despain and Mitchell were questioned by the Fort Collins Police Department in November 2004 after the couple’s oldest daughter, 4 months at the time, was treated at Poudre Valley Hospital for a skull fracture.
Despain told doctors she tripped while carrying the child in a car seat, causing the car seat to hit concrete. After the initial injury, doctors found a healing rib fracture that they concluded could not have been caused by a fall in a car seat.
Criminal charges were not brought against Despain or Mitchell, although Fort Collins police in early 2008 pledged to reopen the investigation after Despain’s arrest in Mesa County.