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Bail set at $2M in the death of 19-month-old girl from Olivia

OLIVIA -- Bail was set at $2 million Tuesday as Sergio Turrubiates Jr., 20, of Olivia, was arraigned on a charge of murder in the second degree - without intent for the death of 19-month-old Tiana Moore.

Moore died on Christmas Eve at the Children's Hospital in St. Paul of traumatic head injuries she allegedly received on Dec. 22 while in Turrubiates' care at her home in Olivia.

Turrubiates' first appearance Tuesday in District Court was marked by tension. As he entered the courtroom, a man and woman charged toward him from the spectator benches, the man shouting obscenities. Renville County sheriff's deputies and Olivia police officers wrestled both to the ground.

Jamie Lee Hayes, 26, and James Mathew Kirscher, 22, were booked at the Renville County Jail on disorderly conduct charges. They were identified by family members as an aunt and uncle to Tiana Moore.

The two told authorities they were overcome by emotion when they saw Turrubiates enter the courtroom with what appeared to be a smile on his face.

Turrubiates marked his 20th birthday with his court appearance. He gave simple yes and no responses to questions from Judge Dwayne Knutsen. The judge ordered bail at $2 million unconditional or $1 million with conditions including that Turrubiates have no contact with members of the child's family.

Some 20 spectators attended the hearing, most of them family members of the child's mother. Neither the mother nor Moore's biological father attended the hearing.

Tina Kirscher has been "devastated" by her daughter's death and could not attend the hearing, said Mike King of Olivia, who spoke on the family's behalf after the court hearing. He said family members want to see first-degree murder charges brought against Turrubiates so that he would face a possible life sentence, instead of the 40 years possible under the second-degree charge. "They don't want to see him come back out," King said.

The criminal complaint filed Tuesday against Turrubiates charges that Moore suffered major head injuries including a large fracture on the base of her skull and a number of bruises on her forehead. In the opinion of the examining physician, "there was nothing in Tiana's apartment that could have accidentally caused the injuries he observed," according to the complaint.

Tina Kirscher had come home around 3 p.m. Dec. 22, and shortly afterward Turrubiates summoned her to the bedroom stating that the child was choking or coughing blood, and would not wake up. Kirscher and the defendant were living together with the child, and Turrubiates was alone with the child while the mother was at work that day.

According to the complaint, the defendant later told the mother and investigating officers that the child had fallen against an end table and bumped her head. He also allegedly told Olivia Police Chief Nyla Negen that he had shaken her at one point and that the girl had "got on (his) nerves" but he "cooled down," stated the complaint.

Turrubiates is currently on probation for a burglary conviction in Redwood County. In asking for $2 million bail, Renville County Assistant Attorney Laurence Stratton told the court that the defendant was a flight risk and had convictions as a juvenile for personal injury offenses.

The attorney did not indicate whether other charges are being considered against Turrubiates, but said the investigation is continuing.

Family members are struggling with the loss, said King, who pointed out that Moore's organs had been donated upon her death to another child with severe medical needs at the hospital.

A fund has been established at the Hometown Bank in Olivia to help the family with funeral expenses for Moore. King said all donations are welcome. "They just need help. They need all the help they can get," he said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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