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Trial date set in shaken baby death

Becky Vargo • Jan 22, 2019 at 7:00 AM

A 19-year-old Grand Haven man charged with murdering his girlfriend’s infant daughter waived his arraignment in Ottawa County Circuit Court on Friday.

Cameron Michael Toppen is now scheduled to have a two-day trial on first-degree child abuse and murder charges. The trial is set to begin March 26.

The higher court arraignment was scheduled for Feb. 1, but Toppen’s attorney, John Moritz, filed the waiver on Friday. In the waiver, Toppen “stood mute” and a “not guilty” plea was entered on his behalf.

During a preliminary examination in Ottawa County District Court on Jan. 11, testimony revealed that Toppen was caring for 8-month-old Scarlett Ray-Marie Burroughs in a Grand Haven Township home while the child’s mother was at work.

On Nov. 15, 2018, Toppen was alone with the child when he became frustrated with the infant’s crying and “snapped,” according to Detective Tyler Kempema of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, who interviewed the defendant. The child became unresponsive and was taken to the hospital. She died two days later at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Dr. David Start, a forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy on the child’s body, testified that she had died of a head injury consistent with rapid shaking.

District Judge Craig Bunce said that while he did not find intent to kill or do great bodily harm, Toppen knowingly created high risk of harm or death. Bunce determined that there was enough evidence to proceed with the charges and bound Toppen over to the higher court for a felony determination.

Tribune reporter Alex Sinn contributed to this story.

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