Trial again delayed in baby murder case

Becky Vargo • May 31, 2019 at 9:00 AM

A 20-year-old Grand Haven man charged with murdering his girlfriend’s infant daughter will have to wait a little longer for his trial.

Cameron Michael Toppen is now scheduled to have a two-day trial on first-degree child abuse and murder charges starting on Aug. 14 in Ottawa County Circuit Court. The original trial date was March 26 and the most recent date was June 4.

“There was an agreement to adjourn the case,” said defense attorney John Moritz. “The reason, primarily, is that a defense expert is going to require more time to review all of the details of the case.”

Moritz filed a written waiver of arraignment in late January. 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.

Toppen remains lodged in the Ottawa County Jail, where he has been since his arrest later in November.

Tribune reporter Alex Sinn contributed to this story.

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