Seven weeks ago, Tyler James Deutsch held his newborn daughter in his arms and smiled for the camera.
He posted the photo on his Facebook page. Social media thumbs went up; 19 people liked the picture. A relative, possibly an uncle, posted a warm comment.
“Your life will change forever I can already tell just in your smile,” it said.
The relative was right. Deutsch’s life has changed. He was arrested Saturday. Pierce County prosecutors say he placed his infant daughter in a freezer for an hour or more to stop her from crying.
Tuesday, he walked into a Pierce County courtroom wearing a green suicide smock and shackles. Deutsch, 25, faces charges of first-degree child assault, first-degree criminal mistreatment and interfering with the reporting of a domestic violence incident. Those are preliminary charges; prosecutors could file more.
If convicted, Deutsch could spend the rest of his life in prison.
He pleaded not guilty. County Court Commissioner Meagan Foley set bail at $1 million.
The child is alive, but her long-term prospects for recovery are unclear. According to charging papers, her body temperature was between 84 and 86 degrees when she was rescued. She also had a broken ankle, a broken bone in her shoulder, a head injury and blisters on her leg and foot.
The child’s mother, 22, didn’t come to court.
Charging papers say she didn’t trust Deustch to be alone with the child, and Deutsch knew it. Saturday was the first time; the mother left the couple’s house in Roy for 90 minutes.
She came home and saw Deutsch taking the baby out of the freezer, charging papers state. The baby had been wearing clothes when the mother left; now she wore nothing but a diaper.
The temperature inside the freezer, an upright compartment over the fridge, was 10 degrees. It held a half-full bag of ice and a bag of cauliflower.
The mother started to call 911. Deutsch took the phone away, charging papers state. The mother carried the baby to the landlord, who lives on the property. The landlord called police.
Deutsch followed, telling his girlfriend and the landlord that the baby was fine, charging papers state. To the landlord, he admitted putting the baby in the freezer, but did not say why, according to prosecutors.
To sheriff’s deputies, Deutsch told different stories. At first he said he’d fallen asleep and awakened, not knowing where the baby was. He’d searched the home and found her in the freezer, he said.
After emergency medical technicians took the baby to the hospital, Deutsch changed the account.
He said he worked at night and his girlfriend worked during the day. He’d been exhausted and fallen asleep. He woke and realized the baby wasn’t sleeping next to him. He searched the house and found her in the freezer, but had no idea how she got there.
Finally, Deutsch told a third story. He admitted putting the baby in the freezer “because he was tired and she was crying,” charging papers state.
Deutsch said the baby had no injuries, apart from a bruise on the back of her head; she head-butted him, he said. He didn’t mention the baby’s broken bones.
At Tuesday’s arraignment, a quick affair, Deutsch said little, apart from answering “yes” to questions about his address and the spelling of his name. He looked at the floor, bobbing and shaking slightly as Foley announced the bail amount.
Deputy prosecutor Michelle Hyer noted Deutsch’s prior convictions. He pleaded guilty to identity theft in 2012; according to court records, he used his younger sister’s credit card to buy cigarettes and beer. Hyer also mentioned a 2011 conviction for third-degree theft, and a 2007 conviction for trying to elude police before a DUI arrest.
Foley set a tentative trial date of July 15. If Deutsch makes bail, he’s prohibited from the Roy address and any contact with the baby or her mother.
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486