Police: Pattern of abuse in baby slaying

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:29 PM

Muskegon County District Judge Maria Ladas Hoopes ruled Wednesday that there is enough evidence to send the case to Circuit Court on the open murder charge.

Anthony Casanova, 40, was returned to jail after the preliminary examination.

Police said Casanova shook Tyler Casanova on more than one occasion before the child died Jan. 4 in their Davis Road home. Casanova told police at the time he tripped over the dog and fell on the baby.

During Wednesday's hearing, Detective Anthony Nanna of the Norton Shores Police Department said Casanova changed his story in a police interview.

"He eventually admitted he 'just lost it' with the baby," Nanna said.

According to Nanna, Casanova said he picked up the child from a portable playpen and hugged him until he stopped breathing. Then "he repeatedly threw him down on the bed," Nanna said, demonstrating an up-and-down motion with his arms.

The detective testified that the bed was an inflatable mattress and was very firm. It became firmer if you sat on it, as Casanova told him he did.

Nanna testified that he also attended the child's autopsy, where the doctor showed him previous and more-recent broken ribs, a lacerated liver, skull fracture, and bleeding on the brain.

Nanna said Casanova had told him he also tripped over the dog and fell with the baby the previous night. That would explain some of the bruises on the child’s body, the detective said.

Nanna said this made him suspicious and he pushed Casanova to say "what really happened.” That’s when Casanova told him about being very tired and upset with the crying baby.

The detective said Casanova admitted to lying about what happened the night the child died. Nanna said Casanova told him he brought the child into the living room to make it look like the incident happened there.

Casanova's attorney, Shawn Davis, said there is nothing on record to prove what his client did was intentional, and that he should be charged with either manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

Hoopes said she was sending the open murder charge to Circuit Court based on the autopsy, which noted the child died from “multiple injuries intentionally afflicted by another."

Casanova has waived his Circuit Court arraignment. Hilson said the next court hearing would be a pre-trial conference, probably in a couple of weeks, once a judge is selected.

The prosecutor said he would not be surprised if the defense filed a motion to have Casanova sent to a forensic center to determine if he could be held criminally responsible.

Casanova was evaluated for competency to stand trial following the original preliminary examination date in January. In March, Casanova was found mentally competent to understand court procedures.

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