ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Duluth man charged with killing neighbor's infant son

A Duluth man has been charged with murdering his neighbor's infant son, but the boy's parents say the man has been falsely accused. An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for Michael Virgil Tahtinen, 35, who was charged in St. Louis County Distri...

A Duluth man has been charged with murdering his neighbor's infant son, but the boy's parents say the man has been falsely accused.

An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for Michael Virgil Tahtinen, 35, who was charged in St. Louis County District Court with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of 11-month-old Connor Robison. A protection order also has been issued prohibiting Tahtinen from having any contact with his own two children.

Tahtinen is in custody, but not at the St. Louis County Jail. Staff at the jail declined to say where Tahtinen is being held.

According to the criminal complaint, Connor Robison was found Sept. 4 unresponsive and without a pulse by emergency personnel responding to a call that he had had fallen and was possibly losing consciousness. The infant died at a hospital three hours later.

A St. Louis County medical examiner performed an autopsy and found that the boy suffered multiple tears in his liver, including a massive laceration with the tear extending deep into the organ's right lobe. The medical examiner gave the opinion that the child died from massive blunt trauma to the lower chest and abdomen, producing a massive rupture of the liver and extensive hemorrhaging.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tahtinen is accused of causing the injuries, but the boy's parents don't buy it. They defended the man as a friend they have known since last spring.

"It's ridiculous the hoops that the police are jumping through in order to try to make him out to be guilty,'' Woody Robison, the dead boy's father, said Wednesday night. "It makes no sense. They refuse to believe that accidents do happen. They keep coming after him trying to say he was beating on Connor. They haven't given us any detail.''

Amanda Robison, the infant's mother, told police that Connor had a slight cold and she put him down for a nap in a portable playpen that was set up in Tahtinen's bedroom. Tahtinen said he was on his deck when he heard a thud in the bedroom about 5 p.m. He said he went inside and found the boy lying on the floor next to the playpen. He picked him up, brought him downstairs and told his wife and the boy's mother that Connor had climbed out of the crib and fallen to the floor.

The boy was crying. His mother said there was a red mark on the child's lip and a red mark on his stomach. She said she rocked him for a few minutes and he calmed down. She said the defendant took the child back upstairs to finish his nap in the playpen.

About 20 minutes later, Tahtinen said he was taking a shower when he heard another "thud/crash.'' He ran out to find the child on the floor again facing the opposite direction from before. He said he put him back in the crib and the boy fell asleep.

When he finished his shower, Tahtinen said he found the boy whimpering and took him to the boy's mother. She saw that her son was pale and wasn't breathing right, so 911 was called.

"For this to happen, my wife, his wife, my daughter and his two children would have to have seen and heard all of that happening and I just can't see that happening,'' Woody Robison said. "It's not that big of a house and my wife was in direct site of the room. It's ridiculous.''

Tahtinen is charged with second-degree felony murder while committing third-degree assault, and first-degree manslaughter while committing or attempting to commit malicious punishment of a child.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a letter to the court accompanying the complaint, St. Louis County prosecutor Mark Rubin said there is evidence of a pattern of alleged assaultive conduct involving Tahtinen and very young children. Rubin wrote that he was concerned for the safety of other very young children in the defendant's custody.

MARK STODGHILL covers public safety and courts. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at stodghill@duluthnews.com .

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.