Anoka man confessed to killing baby daughter 13 years ago: charges

Police arrested an Anoka man on Saturday after he allegedly confessed to a woman that he killed their 3-month-old daughter 13 years ago by suffocating the child with a pillow because he couldn’t stand the noise of her crying. 

The Anoka County Attorney’s Office charged Benjamin Alexander Russell, 37, with second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of up to 40 years, and first-degree manslaughter, which comes with an up to 15-year sentence. Records show he is currently an inmate in the Anoka County Jail.

The following is according to the criminal complaint:

A child dies 

On Jan.19, 2009, Russell was watching his baby daughter at their home in Coon Rapids while her mother was at work. At about 1:30 p.m, he called 911 to report the child was not breathing. Paramedics arrived and rushed the child to the hospital, where she died a short time later. 

That day, Russell told law enforcement he had put his daughter down for a nap at 12:30 p.m and when he went back to check an hour later, he noticed she seemed to have rolled over onto her stomach and was face down on a blanket he had used to prop up her bottle. He told the officers when he rolled her onto her back, he saw she was not breathing and gave her mouth‐to‐mouth CPR until paramedics arrived, the complaint says  

Law enforcement also spoke to the child’s mother, identified in the complaint by the initials "N.K." She told them she had left for work at 8:30 a.m. that morning and her daughter had been up five times the previous night but was not ill and was acting as a baby normally would. 

An autopsy determined the child’s cause of death was positional asphyxia/suffocation, a finding based in part on the story Russell had provided law enforcement, the complaint says.

13 years later, alleged confessions 

On July 6, 2022, detectives again spoke to N.K. She said on July 4, 2022, Russell had contacted her saying he "needed to talk about something important," according to the complaint. 

N.K. told detectives Russell then came to her house and told her their daughter had not died of positional asphyxia — he had killed her with a pillow, charges said. 

Russell explained further, according to the complaint, telling N.K. their daughter would not stop crying while he was trying to lay her down for a nap and he "couldn’t handle any of it," so he had taken a pillow and placed it over her mouth to "muffle the sound," and held it there. He said he then left the room and went outside to have a cigarette, the complaint says, without removing the pillow. 

He said he smoked outside for about 12 minutes, and when he returned, the baby had turned blue, at which point he called 911.

According to the complaint, N.K told detectives that Russell added another detail: he told her she "had given him the perfect alibi at the time" because she had told him to remove the pillows and blankets from their daughter’s crib the night before. This, he said, had reminded him that the blankets shouldn’t be in the crib, so he had told the investigators he had used them to prop up the bottle and the baby had rolled onto the blankets, the complaint says. 

The complaint says detectives spoke to two more witnesses who told them Russell had told them a similar story and confessed to killing his daughter. In one of the confessions, he said he had done the dishes after smoking the cigarette, according to the complaint. In the other confession, he said when he saw the baby had turned blue, he didn’t dial 911 right away, but cried for a while before eventually making the call, the complaint says. 

Russell, the complaint says, currently has two young children, and family members told law enforcement he is often overwhelmed when caring for them. On July 8, he allegedly sent a text to the mother of his young children, saying "I don't give a shit about those kids if your not a part of it.[SIC]" 

He was arrested two days later.

Russell made his first court appearance on Monday and was assigned a public defender. His next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 25 at 1:30 p.m.