FREEHOLD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A man accused of tossing his 2-year-old daughter into a creek while she was still strapped in her car seat was indicted Monday on a murder charge.
Arthur Morgan III of Eatontown has been in jail on $10 million bail since his arrest in San Diego in November.
Prosecutors said Morgan killed her during a court-approved visit by attaching a tire iron to her car seat to weigh it down before throwing it into the creek from an overpass.
The cause of death was determined to be homicidal violence, including submersion in water. An autopsy determined that the child was alive when she hit the water.
In addition to the murder charge, Morgan is charged with interference with custody and child endangerment.
The New Jersey Department of Children and Families had been involved with the family on and off for more than a year.
In December, the toddler’s great-grandfather blamed the court system for not doing enough to prevent Tierra’s death.
“My granddaughter pleaded with these people not to allow an unsupervised visit. Yet in spite of her request it was denied,” he said.
The girl’s mother, Imani Benton, said a case worker told the courts there was no reason to deny Morgan unsupervised visitation.
“I reached out to the Department of Youth and Family Services when he hit her and he admitted to hitting her and they still deemed him fit as a parent,” Benton said last year.
In February, Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake said child welfare officials failed to connect concerns of child abuse and domestic violence in the case.
Should Morgan be convicted, prosecutors said they will seek to have him imprisoned for the rest of his life without parole, the harshest punishment available in New Jersey since state officials instituted a moratorium on new death penalty cases several years ago.
An arraignment date in Superior Court hasn’t yet been scheduled.
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