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East Baton Rouge Parish coroner: Death of 4-month-old baby ruled a homicide, father in custody

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Baton Rouge police say the father of a baby who died over the weekend from blunt force trauma has been booked on a count of murder.

The death of a 4-month-old infant who was brought to a hospital last Wednesday has been ruled a homicide, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said.

Police spokesman Cpl. Don Coppola said in a news release on Tuesday detectives upgraded the count filed against John William Hope, 28, from second-degree cruelty to a juvenile to first-degree murder in the death of his daughter, Josephine Hope.

The staff at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center contacted police to report that Hope had brought in Josephine with life-threatening injuries — three skull fractures, multiple rib fractures, face and neck bruising, a bloody mouth and bloodshot eyes.

The baby was in critical condition Friday with no brain activity. She died on Saturday.

Hope and the baby's mother, Christine Hope, told doctors their daughter had fallen off a changing table, but emergency room staff said the child's injuries did not align with the parents' story, the police report says.

"Injuries around the (child's) neck were consistent with someone grabbing the baby by the neck," the report says.

The father told police he left the baby on a changing table about 8 a.m. Wednesday while going to get a bottle. After he left the room, he heard a crash and walked back in to find Josephine on the floor, he told police.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III said a grand jury would review the case.

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