Man suspected in toddler’s death pleads not guilty


18-month-old toddler died from head trauma

The man charged in the death of his girlfriend’s 18-month-old toddler pleaded not guilty Monday and has told investigators he thinks the child’s fatal injuries were caused by an accidental fall.

Joshua D. Burnett, 23, faces a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the March 31 death of 18-month-old Rylee Castner. The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled Rylee died from blunt force trauma to his head.

According to court records, family members noticed something wrong with Rylee when he, his mother and Burnett showed up for a barbecue on March 30. Before medics could arrive to check on the unresponsive child, Burnett left to get money for beer.

During a later interview with Spokane police, Burnett denied knowing what had happened to Rylee, saying only that the boy was “a little fussy.”

Witnesses told investigators that Rylee had fallen the day before while the family was eating at a Spokane-area McDonald’s. But Dr. Cecilia Fry told investigators that Rylee’s injuries could not have come from that fall, according to court records.

Detectives set up a polygraph test for Burnett on April 3, which found him to be “untruthful,” according to court records.

“After Burnett was confronted with the autopsy findings and statements, Burnett eventually admitted that it was an accident,” Detective Marty Hill wrote.

On the morning of the incident, Burnett said he came around a corner and “kneed” Rylee in the face and the boy was knocked to the ground inside the mother’s home at 2104 W. Mansfield Court, Hill wrote.

After getting Burnett’s second statement, Hill re-interviewed Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken, who “stated that the actions described by Burnett did not cause the injuries,” Hill wrote.

Superior Court Judge James Triplet agreed with a prosecution request and ordered Burnett held in jail on a $250,000 bond.

Triplet set Burnett’s arraignment for April 25 at 3:30 p.m.

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