Family photo
Prosecutors have charged a West Valley City teen baby sitter with child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony, in the death of infant Adalyn Monson.

SALT LAKE CITY — A 16-year-old baby sitter has been criminally charged with causing the death of an infant girl he was watching.

The teenage boy, who prosecutors say tossed the baby in the air repeatedly before she stopped breathing earlier this month, faces a single count of child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony, in 3rd District Juvenile Court.

West Valley police said 5-month-old Adalyn Monson was taken off life support May 10 after she was critically injured three days earlier. When her parents picked her up from the sitter's house on May 7, the teen, a distant family member, was holding the unresponsive child, according to charging documents.

The boy told police that "the baby was not acting right" that day and had sent his parents a video of the child that showed her limp and with labored breathing, court documents say. They sent a friend to check on the child.

The Deseret News has chosen not to name the boy at this time. He was not present at a brief court hearing Tuesday, when a judge ordered a doctor's report on his mental health.

The teen later told officers he had thrown the girl into the air before she lost consciousness because she "was not being responsive, was crying, would not take a bottle, and had not had a dirty diaper all day," charging documents state.

Tossing and catching the child was something he did "all the time over and over again," investigators wrote, adding that he told police that the girl's "breath would be lost," she would be dizzy and her "head would jostle around."

Outside the courtroom, Donna Dearth recalled how her daughter Adalyn smiled often during her brief life.

"No mother should have to go through this," she said.

The teen had been watching the child for several weeks while she worked a customer service job for a lawn care company and her husband also went to work, she said.

"If he couldn't have handled her, he could have just put her down and told me, 'I can't do it,'" she said. "He's a great kid. He is. I just think he got too overwhelmed and didn't communicate with me and my husband."

Adalyn's obituary includes a picture of her smiling in a pink T-shirt, noting she "taught us how precious life can be."

In an interview with police, the teen mentioned an earlier time when the child and her 2-year-old brother were being "difficult," and the girl passed out after he threw her into the air, charging documents state. The teen said he then "pushed on her chest a couple times and gave her a few breaths" but she was not the same after that.

On May 7, when police arrived at the Shadowbrook Apartments, 3852 S. 1845 West, they found the infant was "gray in color." Doctors indicated she had head trauma consistent with abuse, according to the charges.

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An autopsy revealed the baby died of severe brain trauma and had a bruise on her head that had not been visible while she was in the hospital, prosecutors say. Her parents told police the baby was healthy earlier that day and had never been dropped or shaken.

In the interview with police, the boy told officers he watched the child in order to "work off his community service hours," the charges state. He was sentenced to community service and probation after he was charged with drug possession in January, juvenile court records show, in a case that followed earlier drug possession and theft charges. Each count was a class B misdemeanor.