WALL TOWNSHIP — A local man has been arrested and charged with murder in the suffocation death, last year, of his infant daughter.
Austin Meli, 23, was arrested Jan. 23 and charged with first-degree murder and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
Wall Township police officers responded on March 9 to a residence in the township after being called about an unresponsive six-week-old infant, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said. The investigation determined that the baby was in the immediate care of her father, Mr. Meli, at the time, he said.
The infant subsequently was pronounced dead at Ocean Medical Center in Brick Township.
Mr. Meli appeared in state Superior Court in Freehold on Wednesday, Jan. 29, before Judge Paul X. Escandon.
Ellyn Rajfer, assistant county prosecutor, told the judge that the mother of the infant went to the Wall Township Police station on Nov. 11 and reported that Mr. Meli had admitted to her in a telephone conversation that he had suffocated the baby.
Authorities received a recording of the conversation, she said.
The medical examiner subsequently reviewed the case and determined that the cause of death was smothering and the manner of death was homicide, Ms. Rajfer she said.
Mr. Meli is being held in the Monmouth County Jail in Freehold Township. If convicted of murder, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
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