Teen charged in toddler's death will challenge adult charges

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A teenager accused of kicking and stomping a 2-year-old, leading to the girl's death, will challenge adult charges and try to keep his case in juvenile court.

The 17-year-old is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Sophia O'Niell. He was arrested in early June at a south Minneapolis residence after officers responded to a call of the child not breathing. The toddler was in the care of the teenager at the time, police said. He's reportedly the boyfriend of O’Neill’s 20-year-old mother.

The toddler was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in an ambulance, but died later that night, police said.

On Thursday, the teenager's lawyer Bobby Joe Champion told a judge they'll fight to keep the case in juvenile court, rather than having the teen be tried as an adult, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office says. Champion said because the teenager's psychological profile arrived just before the start of the hearing, he had not had a chance to go over it or discuss with the suspect's family. He then asked for a contested certification hearing with a 90-day deadline, which the judge allowed, the attorney's office says.

Anyone who commits a crime when they are between the ages of 10 and 17 is considered a juvenile offender. Most juvenile cases remain in juvenile court, with a few exceptions for especially violent crimes, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office website notes. For more on the juvenile justice system, click here.

O'Niell's injuries, outlined in the probable cause statement, are described below. (Editor’s note: Some of the details could be considered disturbing.)

The teenager told police he “snapped on her” when Sophia wouldn’t stop crying. He put her in a corner and kicked her in the back. When she still wouldn’t stop crying he said he laid her face down on the floor and stomped on her back.

When asked how hard he kicked Sophia, on a scale of one to 10, he said: “It was bad. It was like a seven. It was hard.”

Investigators believe this happened Tuesday, June 9, the day before Sophia died.

Sophia suffered “significant non-accidental trauma,” with the medical examiner determining she died of multiple blunt-fore injuries to her torso region – her left kidney was split in half, her pancreas was split in two, her liver was injured, she had eight broken ribs, a collapsed lung and bruising on her scalp, among other injuries.

During the investigation, the child’s biological father, 22-year-old Max O’Neill, showed police video of Sophia with bruises on her face. In the video, Sophia says the suspect “punched” her in the face.

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