Coon Rapids man pleads guilty to murder in death of five-month-old daughter

Joshua VanHoutan
Joshua VanHoutan

Joshua Allen VanHoutan, 12886 Flamingo St. N.W., entered a guilty plea to felony second-degree murder.

Anoka County District Court Judge Tammi Fredrickson will hear testimony regarding sentencing at a hearing July 20. The sentencing has been set for Sept. 12.

“This was a horrible crime committed against an innocent child,” said Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo in a press release.

“It was truly a tragedy.”

VanHoutan’s daughter, Alexis, was admitted to Mercy Hospital May 11, 2011 where an examination found that she had retinal hemorrhaging and significant bleeding on the brain consistent with being shaken and she was then transferred to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital where she underwent surgery to alleviate the pressure inside of her skull, but she died May 15, 2011, the Anoka County Attorney’s Office stated in a press release.

The baby’s mother told police that Alexis was being cared for by VanHoutan, the baby’s father, while she was at work, according to the criminal complaint filed against VanHoutan.

When she left for work at about 4 a.m. May 11, 2011 the baby was asleep after being given a bottle by VanHoutan, but at about 9 a.m., she said she got a telephone call from VanHoutan indicating something was wrong with the baby, then another call about 10 a.m. stating the baby would not wake up and “her arms were frail.”

The mother left work, returned to their residence, dressed the baby and brought her to the hospital.

In a voluntary statement to an Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division (CID) investigator, VanHoutan said that between 6:30 and 6:45 a.m. Alexis woke up and he took her into the living room to play, but she was fussy.

Initially, VanHoutan denied harming his daughter, but when he was told it was important for doctors to know how the baby was hurt, he admitted to shaking his daughter twice because she would not calm down.

Using a forensic interview doll, VanHoutan demonstrated shaking Alexis, causing her head to forcibly jerk back and forth.

Later in a post-Miranda statement after being taken into custody, VanHoutan admitted he first shook Alexis about 6:30 a.m., then after about two hours her body was limp and she had trouble keeping her eyes open, prompting him to call the baby’s mother between 9 and 10 a.m. to tell her that Alexis would not wake up and that she was limp.

VanHoutan and the baby’s mother lived at the Flamingo Street address with their three children, two of them twins including Alexis, and the mother’s father, according to the complaint.

Peter Bodley is at
[email protected]

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