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Father faces aggravated murder charge in baby son’s death

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PROVO — A father who prosecutors allege abused his 3-week-old baby son so severely it brought on seizures that eventually caused the child's death has been charged with aggravated murder.

Cameron Nielsen, 22, was in 4th District Court Thursday with his parents to hear prosecutors read the new first-degree felony charge.

"We felt the baby was repeatedly assaulted," said deputy Utah County attorney Donna Kelly. "There were a number of incidents of abuse."

Jason Nielsen was born April 6 and taken to Primary Children's Medical Center May 11 with numerous rib fractures, three skull fractures, a liver laceration and brain injuries, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court.

When police interviewed Nielsen, he allegedly admitted to squeezing Jason very hard and throwing him in his crib multiple times over the past few weeks, according to the affidavit.

After being taken to the hospital, Jason developed seizures, something he didn't have before the abuse, Kelly said.

The seizures got worse and worse, and despite being on medicine, they eventually caused Jason's death in October, Kelly said.

Before Jason died in medical foster care, Nielsen had been prepared to enter a plea deal to four charges of child abuse, a second-degree felony. But after his death, prosecutors revoked the plea deal and asked to revisit the charges.

The case against Nielsen marks the fourth aggravated murder case filed this year by the Utah County Attorney's Office.

Because of the potential of the death penalty, it also means the start of an intense and costly mitigation investigation by county funded defense attorneys. Nielsen is unable to hire his own attorney and was given a public defender.

"As you can guess, we'll have a lot of background work to do outside of court," said defense attorney Tom Means, who is the head of the Utah County Public Defender's Association.

Kelly said she had only received the medical examiner's report the day before, which listed the cause of death as "inflicted head injury," she told the judge.

Because prosecutors were waiting on the report, they failed to meet an earlier deadline to file new charges as set by Judge Gary Stott, so Nielsen's bail was lowered to $5,000 cash or bond.

He was able to bail out of the Utah County Jail and appeared in court out of custody, a rare situation for someone charged with a first-degree felony charge of aggravated murder, Means said.

Kelly said the Division of Child and Family Services had investigated the case when Jason was brought to the hospital and ended up taking custody of the couple's children, which included Jason and an older sibling.

However, the mother of the children has since received custody again of the older child, Kelly said. The couple is currently separated and their relationship strained, but Nielsen's parents have been very supportive of him, Means said.

Nielsen will be in court again Jan. 15.

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com