More than two years after a baby’s horrific death, an arrest has been made, the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office said on Monday.
A news release says that at around 6:45 p.m. May 28, 2021, the agency’s Public Safety Dispatch “received the 911 call we never want to receive,” a report of an unresponsive 2-month-old at a home in Vero Beach.
Over the phone, dispatchers gave life-saving instructions to the infant’s father, Joseph Napier, while deputies and fire-rescue crews went to the scene.
When emergency crews arrived, they did CPR, but the infant was unresponsive and “turning blue,” the sheriff’s office says. The baby, which was found to have a baby wipe lodged deep in her throat, was taken to a hospital, but couldn’t be revived.
During the preliminary investigation, Napier told deputies he could see “a small white object” in the back of the baby’s mouth after he left her unattended on a futon for about 10 minutes. His 18-month-old daughter was also in the room, watching TV on the floor.
When he returned to the room he discovered the child was “in distress,” but still waited about five minutes before calling for help, police said.
“He knew that he was the cause of this and getting his story together,” said Indian County Sheriff Eric Flowers during a news conference announcing the arrest. “He put the wipe in her mouth to shut the kid up. He pushed it down far enough that this child choked.”
In consultation with medical professionals, authorities had their suspect.
“He shoved that baby wipe down her throat to shut her up,” Flowers said. “I’m proud they took the time and crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s [but] it’s not a day to celebrate. It’s a tragic loss of life....”
The 30-year-old was arrested Friday on an aggravated manslaughter charge, and held at the Indian River County Jail on $750,000 bond.
The baby’s name was Iris.