Anoka man killed infant daughter with pillow in 2009, charges say

An Anoka man has been arrested and charged after he confessed to killing his 3-month-old daughter by suffocating her with a pillow 13 years ago.

Charges filed Friday in Anoka County District Court show 37-year-old Benjamin Alexander Russell faces one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

The daughter, whose name was not released, was found unresponsive the afternoon of Jan. 19, 2009, at a home in Coon Rapids and was later pronounced dead.

Court documents state that Russell had called 911 to report the child was not breathing. The father told investigators that he had laid her down for a nap and returned an hour later to find her rolled over on her stomach with her face in the blanket he used to prop up her bottle. All of this happened while the child’s mother was away at work.

The baby’s cause of death was determined to be positional asphyxia.

But on Monday, the criminal complaint states, Russell went to the child’s mother’s home and admitted to her that he had covered the child’s face with a pillow to “muffle the sound” of her crying. He said the baby wouldn’t stop crying and “he couldn’t handle any of it.”

Russell told the mother he held the pillow over the child’s face, went outside for a cigarette and came back to find her blue in the face, at which point he called 911, the complaint states.

He also told her she had given him “the perfect alibi” because the mother had told him to take the pillows and blankets out of the crib the night before. That led him to lie to investigators about using a blanket to prop up the bottle “since he knew the blankets shouldn’t have been there,” documents show.

Investigators spoke with two other people who also said Russell had admitted to killing his daughter. They “expressed great concern” upon hearing Russell’s story because he currently has two young children under 2-years-old and “is often overwhelmed caring for them.”

The complaint also states Russell texted the mother of his youngest children on Friday saying, “I don’t give a s— about those kids if you’re not a part of it.”

Anoka County Jail records show Russell was booked into custody Friday.