ELKO – An Elko man who was arrested this week on child abuse charges is now facing a charge of open murder, after the infant died, as well as an additional child abuse charge regarding the 4-year-old boy he was caring for.
Nathan J. O’Dell, 24, was caring for the 7-month-old male and a 4-year-old boy at a home on Douglas Street when he called 911 Tuesday morning to report the infant was not breathing, according to Elko Police Chief Ty Trouten.
The baby died two days later at a hospital in Utah.
A complaint signed Thursday by District Attorney Tyler Ingram said the state may seek to impose the death penalty if O’Dell is convicted.
Trouten said O’Dell had been left in charge of the children while their mother was working out of town. He claimed the infant was ill and had stopped breathing when the call was made shortly after 7 a.m.
According to a declaration of probable cause, O’Dell told police he left the baby unattended briefly to change his clothes and then found him not breathing. He said he tried to revive the baby by splashing him with cold water in the shower, but while attempting to get the water started he dropped the baby from a height of about 12-18 inches.
The baby was taken to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital with multiple skull fractures that medical staff said were indicative of violent shaking often referred to as “shaken baby syndrome.”
Concerned family members also transported his 4-year-old brother to the hospital. He had “numerous injuries to his body and significant bruising to his buttocks area,” police said.
An Elko Police Department detective spoke with O’Dell at the hospital, where he reportedly admitted hitting the baby across the head out of frustration. He also admitted spanking the older child as discipline for having trash under his bed.
The children’s mother had left the residence on the prior Thursday to work in Round Mountain.
During additional interviews with police, O’Dell admitted to striking the baby about half a dozen times over a three-day period, and forcefully throwing him onto a bed on one occasion and tossing him into a playpen on another. He also said he “squeezed” the baby forcefully while trying to console him.
The baby was transported to Primary Children’s Hospital where he died Thursday morning. A doctor there indicated the cause of death was abusive head trauma resulting in brain damage.
O’Dell was formally charged later that day with open murder, including first degree murder committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of child abuse.