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Salt Lake City man charged with toddler’s 1988 murder
Crime » Child’s case was “inappropriately closed” all those years ago, according to charges.
First Published May 29 2014 11:52 am • Last Updated May 29 2014 10:16 pm

A Salt Lake City man has been arrested for allegedly killing a 15-month-old girl in 1988.

Louis Duran, now 53, was charged Thursday in 3rd District Court with second-degree murder, a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.

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Duran was watching the toddler — identified in court documents by only her initials, V.N.— on Oct. 3, 1988, when the toddler was found dead in the man’s home from "multiple blunt force trauma," according to the charges.

A detective who was requested to review V.N.’s case file, as part of the department’s ongoing cold case investigations, was able to locate and interview several witnesses to events leading up to the death of the child determined the case had been "inappropriately closed" the same year, the charges add.

The girl’s mother, Dawn Nieto, had moved in with Duran and his sister after leaving "a bad relationship" with the girl’s father, according to the charges. The girl did not have any injuries or bruises before moving in, the charges add.

The day the girl died, her mother noticed she had bruises on the side of her head, on her cheeks and noted that she was not her normal self, according to the charges.

Nieto and Duran’s sister left to run errands about 1:30 p.m., and by the time Nieto returned five hours later, the girl was blue and not breathing, according to the charges.

Duran told Nieto that he did not know what happened, but did say, "I’m sorry, I’m sorry," the charges add.

Paramedics arrived and pronounced the girl dead.

A medical examiner recently reviewed the initial autopsy and determined the girl suffered blows to the head, which caused complications that killed her.

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The medical examiner also verified that the toddler suffered older injuries and fresher injuries not related to the ones that killed her, all of which "are consistent with having been inflicted by another person," according to the charges.

Further examination determined that she had been abused for the last month of her life, including several bite marks.

Detectives interviewed Duran earlier this year, and he told them that he was taking care of the girl the day she died and that no other adult was there. While he admitted to having caused bite marks on the girl’s forearm and face, he "otherwise said he couldn’t tell the officers what happened that day," according to the charges.

Prosecutors also filed a warrant for Duran’s arrest.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed Thursday morning that officers have arrested Duran and will book him into the Salt Lake County jail.

Bail has been set at $1 million, cash-only.

"[Cold cases] lose their primacy of attention, but it’s so important not to forget them, especially when trying to return a sense of justice to the family members," Gill said.

There could be "a whole host of reasons" why the case was closed in 1988, but Gill emphasized the importance of detectives going back and solving the case with "really good hard police work."

The Salt Lake City homicide detectives never "let these things go" and work the cases constantly to give the families closure, said Police Chief Chris Burbank.

The girl’s name is withheld in the charges since she was a minor, Gill said. "Usually cold cases typically involve adults. Very rarely do they involve minors."

Duran’s criminal history is varied, though relatively minor. He pleaded guilty in 2012 to attempted threat or use of a dangerous weapon in a fight and reckless driving, both misdemeanors, according to court records.

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