VERO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Deputies in Indian River County said they finally found a suspect in the 2021 murder of a 2-month-old girl: the victim’s own father.
The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office said it arrested Joseph Napier in the death of his daughter.
Deputies said on May 28, 2021, the Public Safety Dispatch got a call about an unresponsive 2-month-old.
Dispatchers gave Napier CPR instructions over the phone while first responders made their way to his home on 6th Avenue in Vero Beach.
According to the sheriff’s office, the 2-month-old was “turning blue” by the time deputies arrived.
A deputy gave the child CPR and took the child to the ambulance, but the baby did not survive.
“During the preliminary investigation, Mr. Napier told deputies the infant choked and he could only see a small white object in the back of her mouth,” the sheriff’s office said. “He then gave a timeline of events and claimed he left the child unattended, on a couch, with his 18-month-old daughter for approximately 10 minutes.”
Napier told deputies he came back to find the baby choking but waited about five minutes before calling 911. Detectives said Napier’s timeline was inaccurate because he had spent 30 minutes on his cell phone.
According to the sheriff’s office, an examination of the victim’s body found a baby wipe deep within the baby’s throat. Detectives said that based on the evidence, Napier was the only one who could’ve put the wipe that far down the child’s airway.
“He put that wipe in that child’s mouth,” Sheriff Eric Flowers said to NBC affiliate WTVJ. “He pushed it down far enough that this child choked. It took doctors going deep into this child’s throat with forceps [to get it out].”
The sheriff said it is believed the baby’s father was tired of the child because she had colic and wouldn’t stop crying.
Deputies said Napier was arrested on a manslaughter charge for the child’s death. Flowers said the suspect wasn’t charged with manslaughter because there was not enough evidence to prove intent to kill.
“While this investigation involved the tragic loss of life, we are hoping that this arrest can give some closure to the friends and family,” the sheriff’s office said.