Maplewood man pleads guilty in connection with murder of girlfriend’s 1 1/2-year-old daughter

A Maplewood man entered a guilty plea on March 28 in connection with the murder of his girlfriend’s 17-month-old daughter.

Terrance Valdaz Leslie was charged with second-degree murder in October of 2022.

As previously reported, officers were called to the 1400 block of County Road B East on Oct. 18, 2022, on a report of a 17-month-old with “serious injuries.” The toddler was brought to the hospital, where she later died of her injuries.

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First responders found fresh burns on the girl’s neck, arm, and cheek. Medics also found dark bruises all over her back and abdomen.

The girl’s mother and her boyfriend, identified as Leslie, said that Leslie had been watching the toddler while her mother was at work.

At the hospital, a doctor told police that some of the bruises on the toddler were older — a sign of ongoing abuse. Doctors also found blood behind the girl’s eardrum, indicating a brain injury.

On Leslie’s phone, investigators found videos of him swearing and yelling at the child and videos that appeared to show him hitting or slapping the girl. Investigators also found an internet search of the degree of burns caused by boiling water.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the girl’s cause of death as multiple traumatic injuries due to assault and noted she had several external injuries as well as a brain bleed, broken forearm bones, and lacerations to her thymus gland, liver, and adrenal gland. The medical examiner also found injuries consistent with sexual assault.

“In my 22 years of law enforcement experience, I’ve never investigated a crime more disturbing or more heinous than this murder,” Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said at a press conference following the murder.

Due to the disturbing nature of the scene, mental health resources were provided to first responders.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS discovered Leslie served in prison after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm and ammunition concerning a murder in Minneapolis. He was released in 2021 and had been under released supervision with the Hennepin Department of Community Corrections.

Leslie will be sentenced April 27.