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Hibbing man charged with murder in death of 2-year-old girl

A 26-year-old Hibbing man has been charged with second-degree murder in the 2012 death of his former girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

Law enforcement officials announced Friday that a break in the case over the summer led to the arrest of Russell Shannon Johnson, who is accused of causing the death of Caroline Shenze Marie Medicine-Chavez in March 2012.

According to the St. Louis County Attorney's Office:

Virginia police officers were called to a residence on March 21, 2012, on a report of an unresponsive 2-year-old girl. Officers found Caroline gasping for air; she was transported first to a hospital in Virginia, and then to a hospital in Duluth where she died the next day. An autopsy found that she died from "closed head trauma."

Johnson was with the child at the time of the incident and initially claimed that she fell and hit her head.

"A break in the case occurred a little more than a month ago when a woman told investigators of a conversation she said she had with Johnson. She said that the defendant told her he had stayed up late the night before the girl's death. He said he was 'cranky,' and the girl was a 'really whiny kid.' He said the girl got into his face and he pushed her and she flew into a wall and hit her head," the county attorney's office reported.

"Caroline's death is a tremendous tragedy and our condolences go out to all those who cared about her," St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said in a news release. "This charge is the result of a tireless investigation by the Virginia Police Department, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the St. Louis County Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Uncini."

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