Maplewood man charged with murder of 1 1/2-year-old

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A man is charged with murder after a toddler died in Maplewood earlier this week.

According to Maplewood police, first responders were called to the 1400 block of County Road B East around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on a report of a 17-month-old girl with “significant injuries.”

Police and fire crews responded and gave aid to the child, who was then taken to a hospital where she died a short time later.

Charging documents state first responders found the toddler with fresh burns to her neck, arm and cheek. Medics also found dark bruises all over her back and abdomen. The child’s 18-year-old mother and her boyfriend, 26-year-old Terrance Valdez Leslie, said Leslie was watching the child while the mother was at work.

Leslie claimed he was running hot water in a bathtub for the toddler but left to tend to his dog. He then heard a splash, found the child in the tub and said her skin was peeling off as he dried her. However, officers saw the tub was dry and no towels were even damp. Additionally, the hot water didn’t seem hot enough to cause the toddler’s injuries.

At the hospital, a doctor told police that many of the bruises on the toddler’s body were old, a sign of ongoing abuse. Additionally, fresh bruises were found on her face, and doctors found blood behind her eardrum, indicating a brain injury.

Eventually, the mother said Leslie is abusive and, in the past few weeks, he assaulted her as she held the child and some of his blows hit the toddler. However, the mother said the child was fine when she left for work on Tuesday.

When investigators searched Leslie’s phone, they found videos of him swearing at the child, yelling at her to stop crying, and noises that sounded like him slapping or hitting the child. The complaint notes the child had swelling, bruises and other apparent injuries in the videos, and some appeared to show the child unresponsive.

Additionally, the complaint states Leslie’s phone had an internet search about 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, lacerations to her thymus gland, liver and adrenal gland, broken forearm bones. The medical examiner also found injuries consistent with sexual assault.

While police arrested both Leslie and the child’s mother, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office said Thursday that police haven’t yet presented a case against the mother for charging review. Police added that they don’t have any evidence suggesting she was involved directly in the child’s death.

Leslie, however, is charged with second-degree murder.

Police told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS there were no prior calls about child abuse at the apartment.

“Words cannot fully capture my feelings about what happened to this innocent and helpless young child. But know this – we will unrelentingly seek justice for her,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement.

“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 Thursday.

Due to the disturbing nature of the scene, the Maplewood Police Department said it will provide mental health resources for any officer or medic who needs help coping with this incident.

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

Leslie is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday. If convicted, he’d face up to 40 years in jail.