ST. PAUL — The mother and father of a 3-year-old girl found dead Sunday morning, Jan. 10, in Dayton’s Bluff have been booked into jail on suspicion of the girl’s murder, marking St. Paul’s first homicide of the year.

Sgt. Mike Ernster called the murder of the girl “heartbreaking and extraordinarily tragic.”

He gave the following details Sunday:

The girl’s father, John Lee, 42, called the police department’s non-emergency number about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning and said something about wanting to talk to a “crisis intervention-trained officer.” He then hung up.

The man gave no indication there was an emergency, Ernster said. There also wasn’t any noise in the background or any indication of a crime in progress or someone in danger.

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Dispatch operators tried calling the number back, but nobody picked up. Because they couldn’t reach the man, dispatchers asked officers to investigate.

“We respond to calls when dispatched,” Ernster said. “The emergency communications center did not have any indication that this call involved a crime in progress or someone in danger — either one of those would have elevated the importance and urgency of the call, and an officer would’ve been immediately dispatched.”

When officers arrived about 2:30 a.m. at the man’s house on the 1000 block of East Third Street, Lee told them he was the one who called the non-emergency number and that he believed his 3-year-old daughter was dead on the back porch.

Officers found the girl unconscious and unresponsive on the porch. Paramedics pronounced the girl dead.

Lee and the girl’s mother, Ciasha Lee, 29, were taken to police headquarters for questioning. Five other children, ranging in age from nine months to 11 years, were at the home and were taken into custody by Ramsey County Child Protection.

Investigators booked the mother and father into the Ramsey County Jail on suspicion of murder, Ernster said.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the child’s identity and cause of death.

One other call to police originated from that address in the past year, Ernster said. It was a routine complaint about someone possibly interfering with cars in the alley, he said.

The last homicide in St. Paul was also of a young child, 2-year-old Jayse Wilson, at a North End apartment on Dec. 23, 2020. A man who lived in that apartment is charged with manslaughter for allegedly leaving a gun where the child was able to access it and accidentally shoot himself.

“These kinds of calls are the ones officers (and others involved) will remember for their entire careers,” Ernster said.