Grand Haven Township man charged in baby death

Becky Vargo • Nov 21, 2018 at 5:36 PM

HOLLAND — Cameron Toppen blinked and looked away a couple of times, but otherwise showed little emotion when he was arraigned on child abuse and murder charges late Wednesday afternoon in Ottawa County District Court.

Toppen, 19, is accused of causing a brain injury when he shook his girlfriend’s 8-month-old child in a Grand Haven Township home on Nov. 15.

The child, Scarlett Ray-Marie Burroughs, died Nov. 17 at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Judge Bradley Knoll denied bond for the Grand Haven Township man because of the seriousness of the charge. Toppen remains lodged in the Ottawa County Jail.

The judge appointed attorney Phil Sielski to represent Toppen. A preliminary examination will be set for a later date. 

Prior to the arraignment, Detective Jake Mucha of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office testified, in a warrant hearing, that Toppen had been overheard shouting at the infant on at least one occasion prior to the Nov. 15 incident.

The infant’s 5-year-old brother also told police that he saw Toppen throw the child into the crib and yell at her more than once, Mucha said.

In a recorded interview, “Cameron admitted to being frustrated and snapped,” Mucha said. Toppen was the lone caretaker of the children at the time.

In the interview, Toppen told Mucha that he picked up the child under her arms and “repeatedly shook her hard while shouting her name.”

When the child quieted down, Toppen said that he put her down in the crib. When he checked on her later, he found her foaming at the mouth and called 911, Mucha told the judge.

Knoll ruled that there was probable cause that Toppen committed first-degree child abuse and that the abuse resulted in the child’s death.

Knoll told Toppen, during the video arraignment, that he faced up to life in prison for the child abuse charge and up to life in prison without parole on the murder charge.

Toppen was arrested Tuesday afternoon, according to Capt. Mark Bennett of the Sheriff’s Office.

The chief detective said that deputies found concerning things at the scene and that, as well as information from the initial medical evaluation, caused them to start an investigation.

An autopsy performed Tuesday morning confirmed that the child died of cranial cerebral trauma and that the manner of death was homicide, Bennett said.

According to Mucha, Toppen often cared for the Burroughs children. Toppen was not the infant’s father.

A gofundme page, “Lay Scarlett to Rest,” has been established to raise funds for the child’s funeral. According to the web page, Scarlett was born March 7, 2018, to Clinton and Rachel Burroughs.

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