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Father charged with child neglect related to January death of 6-month-old boy Asaiah Molik

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Jakob Lazzaro / WVPE
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The St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office announced Thursday that the father of Asaiah Molik is being charged with four counts of child neglect related to the baby’s death.

The 6-month-old South Bend boy died in January 2021. According to court documents, an autopsy found that Asaiah had significant internal injuries including head trauma and 23 rib fractures in varying states of healing.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter said that during the months-long investigation, multiple forensic pathologists were consulted and the county hired an outside medical expert.

Doctors determined that the injuries were consistent with intentional abuse, but all were unable to determine a cause of death.

“This was never a case where the investigators just put it aside and said we don't care,” Cotter said. “It was one where we need to make sure we take all of those steps, and unfortunately sometimes it takes longer than anybody wants.”

The baby’s father — 23-year-old Averius Molik — told investigators that he tripped while holding Asaiah and fell on top of him two separate times.

He did not take Asaiah to the hospital after either incident, and was arrested Wednesday evening.

Because the cause of Asaiah’s death was unable to be determined, Cotter said Molik is being charged with four child neglect felonies — two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in catastrophic injury, a level 1 felony, and two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury, a level 3 felony.

But Cotter said Molik could only be convicted on one of the charges.

“It’s the same event under different theories,” Cotter said. “One is resulting in catastrophic injuries, so the pain that Asaiah would have suffered from the time in which he was injured until his death — is that catastrophic, or is that serious? That’s the difference between level one and level three.

Level 1 felonies have a sentence of 20 to 40 years, and level 3 felonies have a sentence of 3 to 16 years.

“And then the second part is, the ‘Was it because Asaiah was placed in a situation that may endanger his life or health?’” Cotter said. “That’s under one theory. The other is that he did not receive the appropriate support.”

Cotter said Molik was charged with all four counts so a jury could determine the severity of the crime.

During a Thursday afternoon court hearing, his bond was set at $100,000.

This story has been updated.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.