Arrest affidavit unsealed in death of Montrose toddler in September

Daniel Ryan

A Montrose man admitted to hitting a 16-month-old girl with his fist, killing her, because the toddler wouldn’t stop crying, according to records made public Tuesday.

In a Sept. 13, 2010, interview that was recorded at the Montrose Police Department, 24-year-old Daniel Lee Ryan said he struck Hailey Rocha at least once in the chest while he was alone caring for the daughter of his girlfriend. His girlfriend was away from the couple’s home, working on the night of Sept. 11, 2010, according an arrest affidavit.

The affidavit was unsealed Tuesday by District Judge Jeff Herron after The Daily Sentinel filed a motion earlier this month seeking to make the record public.

Ryan was sentenced June 13 to serve 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to an amended charge of negligent child abuse resulting in death. The sentence was part of a plea agreement with the office of 7th Judicial District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller, and it was highly criticized by Rocha’s family as too lenient.

The released records show Ryan’s story about how Hailey was injured changed over the span of two days.

Ryan initially told Montrose police he was bathing the toddler when the girl slipped, fell forward and struck her chest and face on the edge of the bathtub.

“Daniel said he calmed (Hailey) down, cleaned the blood off of her face and then put her to bed with a fresh bottle of milk,” the affidavit said, noting Ryan claimed he also put cold water on the child’s head, “because he believed she might have a contusion.”

He claimed the accident happened around 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 11.

Police were called just after 8 p.m. to Taco Bell, 2050 S.  Townsend Ave., where Hailey’s mother worked, after Ryan showed up at the restaurant with the injured child, who was not breathing, had no pulse and was cold to touch. Hailey was pronounced dead at Montrose Memorial Hospital at 8:43 p.m.

Doctors observed blood near the toddler’s mouth and an apparent abrasion. “She also had bruising on her buttocks, right arm, head and chest that was visible,” the affidavit said.

An autopsy showed the child died as a result of blunt-force trauma, in addition to finding “massive” internal bleeding from a lacerated liver, the affidavit said. The coroner’s office concluded the amount of force required to cause such an injury was consistent with a body blow from a human fist, the affidavit said.

Ryan will be eligible for parole in July 2020, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.


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