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Colorado Father Nearly Killed 5-Year-Old by Plunging Boy into Icy Water During Hike, Then Tried to ‘Make It Look Like an Accident’: Police

Michael Ninomiya

Michael Ninomiya

A Colorado father was arrested after police say he confessed to trying to kill his 5-year-old son by throwing him into a gully of icy water off a hiking trail. Michael Ninomiya, 42, was taken into custody on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder for allegedly inflicting the life-threatening injuries upon his young son, who is not likely to survive, the Denver Police Department said.

According to an arrest affidavit obtained by Denver ABC affiliate KMGH-TV, officers with the Denver Police Department, the Denver Fire Department, and Emergency Medical Services on the afternoon of Jan. 12 responded to a 911 call concerning a young boy who had fallen into the freezing cold water along the Cherry Creek trail. The caller was later identified as Ninomiya.

Upon arriving at the scene, first responders reportedly found Ninomiya and his son in a “fenced off drainage culvert along the High Line Canal near Boston St and Cornell Ave.,” the heavily redacted affidavit reportedly said. Firefighters located the pair and fished them out of the water. Ninomiya reportedly sustained a laceration to his forehead and was taken to Swedish Medical Center for treatment.

Unfortunately, Ninomiya’s son was in far worse condition. Medics at the scene attempted life-saving procedures and rushed the boy to Children’s Hospital Colorado where doctors placed him on a ventilator. They reportedly said the boy was in “extremely critical condition and possibly would not survive.”

Shortly after the incident, on Jan. 14, police released a bulletin seeking witnesses who may have seen Ninomiya and his son on the trail prior to the boy being injured. That same day, investigators took Ninomiya into custody on suspicion of attempted murder. He reportedly waived his Miranda rights and gave authorities a statement, though it was reportedly entirely redacted from the public version of the police affidavit.

Denver FOX affiliate KDVR reported that Ninomiya provided investigators with a full confession, saying that he intentionally pulled his son into the frigid water and physically assaulted him until he did not know whether the boy was breathing. Ninomiya then reportedly said that he began hurting himself to “make it look like an accident” before he dialed 911 to report the incident.

The boy’s mother — and also Ninomiya’s wife of eight years — reportedly told police that Ninomiya said he was taking their son “for an adventure” prior to the hike and later sent her two pictures of the boy from the trail. But she reportedly began to grow concerned after Ninomiya suddenly stopped responding to her text messages. She also reportedly said she previously had “no concerns” about Ninomiya posing a threat to their son’s safety.

Ninomiya made his initial appearance in court on Thursday. Prosecutors said that Ninomiya gave the police “a full confession to intentionally trying to kill the victim in this case,” KMGH reported.

A public defender representing Ninomiya told the court that his client lives with mental illness and had been neglecting treatment and medication.

“He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and a number of other mental health disorders in his 20s. He, unfortunately, did not accept the diagnosis, as I think happens a lot, and did not accept medical treatment,” she reportedly said during the proceeding. “He feels immense guilt, he feels awful,” she added.

Prosecutors argued that Ninomiya planned to kill the boy and to create the subsequent injuries to himself as a cover story.

“While he indicates that this was driven by mental health issues, he also took steps to make it appear initially that this was an accident. These steps included trying to injure himself as well,” prosecutors said, per KMGH.

In other words, prosecutors appeared to be arguing that the defendant knew that what he was doing was wrong. They seemed to be posturing against any potential insanity defense raised by the defendant. Evidence that a defendant was capable of “distinguishing right from wrong” negates an insanity defense under Colorado law.

A judge set Ninomiya’s bond at $1 million.  The judge said the defendant must remain under home detention and must take mandatory medication if he is released.

Ninomiya is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder of a victim under 12, attempted child abuse that would knowingly or recklessly cause death, and child abuse causing serious bodily injury.

[image via Denver Police Department]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.