Mitchell charged in son’s death
A Grand Junction father and former mentor to young parents, whose series of alleged crimes stretched over much of 2011, is accused of fatally injuring his infant son last May.
Dartanin D. Mitchell, 34, is suspected of child abuse resulting in the death of his 5-week-old son, Lucius Lee Mitchell, who died on June 12, 2011, after being removed from life support at Children’s Hospital in Denver.
An arrest warrant in the nine-month investigation by the Grand Junction Police Department and Mesa County District Attorney’s office was signed Monday by District Judge Valerie Robison. Bond was set at $500,000. The warrant alleges two counts: child abuse resulting in death, a class 2 felony; and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, a class 3 felony.
Dartanin Mitchell is being held at the Denver County Jail, where he’s been since his arrest in December in connection with a series of armed robberies in the metro area.
District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said a charging decision in the case has hinged for months on the availability of expert medical testimony.
“I needed unanimous medical opinion that the fatal injuries suffered here would have been immediately incapacitating (to Lucius Mitchell), to a reasonable degree of medical certainty,” Hautzinger said, when asked of the time needed to bring a case against Mitchell.
Grand Junction firefighters and paramedics were called May 27, 2011, on a report of a 5-week-old boy not conscious or breathing at 2910 Bunting Ave., Unit 11. An officer reported the boy’s mother, Jennifer Futrell, 24, and Dartanin Mitchell were at the home at the time, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Doctors at St. Mary’s Hospital observed severe trauma to the boy’s head, including bleeding to the eyes and in the brain, which was suspected “non-accidental” trauma, the affidavit said. A doctor said Lucius Mitchell was unlikely to survive.
The boy was flown that same day to Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Antonia Chiesa, the attending physician at the hospital, reported finding new and old fractures including multiple rib fractures, fractures of the right arm and both legs and pelvis, and a possible injury to the spine and neck, according to the affidavit.
A pair of doctors initially identified eight fractures, but a third doctor later reported finding 25 throughout the boy’s body, the affidavit said.
The parents agreed to remove the child from life support on June 10.
Alone with child
Mitchell told detectives he arrived home May 27 and found his wife and her parents at the couple’s Bunting Avenue home, and his son asleep on a living room chair.
Mitchell said his wife left the home to take her parents to their home in Clifton.
“He advised while seated on the couch in the living room working on a new TV remote controller, he saw Lucius raise his arms up and gasp, then go limp,” the affidavit said.
He said he started CPR, calling out to a neighbor for help.
Futrell told a detective she left around 4 p.m. that day to take her parents home, which was roughly a half-hour after her husband had arrived home from work. Mitchell was left alone with the child asleep.
She returned home just before 5 p.m., finding paramedics responding to her home.
Mitchell fell under scrutiny because of the time frames associated with the fatal injuries. Symptoms would have been obvious soon after inflicted, the affidavit said.
A CT scan of Lucius Mitchell’s head showed no evidence of a skull fracture, but significant damage including bleeding of the brain and swelling, the affidavit said.
“(Children’s Hospital pediatric radiologist) Dr. Laura Fenton explained the symptoms from this brain injury would have appeared immediately and Lucius Mitchell would not have been acting normally,” the affidavit said.
Mesa County Coroner’s Office forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman made similar findings in ruling the boy’s death a homicide, the affidavit said.
A former parenting mentor employed by Family First, a Hilltop Community Resources program, Mitchell in 2011 was accused of twice burglarizing his former workplace office, located inside the Mesa County Workforce Center at 2897 North Ave., and stealing vehicles owned by the organization.
Mitchell was free on bond Sept. 27 when he failed to appear at a plea hearing in one of the cases.
Mitchell and his wife, Jennifer, were arrested Oct. 9, in Memphis, Tenn., inside a van alleged to have been stolen from the Hilltop program.
In custody and headed back to Mesa County, Mitchell escaped on Nov. 16 by stealing a private transport vehicle in Topeka, Kan., when the driver stopped at a gas station to use the restroom. Mitchell was wearing handcuffs and shackles at the time.
Mitchell was at-large through Dec. 6, when he and his brother, Rodney, 19, were arrested by the Denver Police Department in connection with four armed robberies between Nov. 20 and Nov. 30 in Denver and Lakewood.