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First-degree murder indictment returned against Hokanson

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The charges are far more serious now.

Tyler James Hokanson, 23, no permanent address (but residing since July 1 in the Dakota County Jail) is now charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of his 17-month-old stepson, Nicholas Arthur Miller, June 23, in Pierce County, Wis. Hokanson was arrested in Hastings July 1.

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A Dakota County Grand Jury last week returned an indictment with three counts of murder in the first degree while committing child abuse and three counts of murder in the second degree while committing a felony against the child.

Hokanson's next scheduled court appearance is 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, in Dakota County District Court. He is currently being held in the Dakota County Jail in lieu of bail in the amount of $500,000 without conditions and $350,000 with conditions as previously set by Judge Rex Stacey.

Hokanson had previously been charged with murder in the second degree (unintentional).

According to court documents, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department was called June 23 to a residence in Maiden Rock, Wis., on a call that a yea-and-a-half-old child was having difficulty breathing, and CPR was being performed. When the ambulance and law enforcement officials arrived at the residence, they began CPR on the child. The child was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Durand, Wis., where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy completed in Ramsey County indicated that Nicholas died as a result of multiple blunt force injuries and classified the death as homicide. The autopsy reported multiple injuries of various ages, including contusions to the skin and scalp, lacerations to the mouth and tongue, multiple rib fractures and a fractures of a vertebrae in the child's back. The examination also documented a sub dermal hemotoma to the brain with approximately 20 cc's of blood caused by the bleeding. Nicholas was staying with his mother the week of June 16. Initially he was eating well and was active, she said. Toward the end of the week, he would not talk and did not walk at all. On June 20, when Nicholas awoke from his nap, he was hot and sweating and appeared to be crying for no reason. Throughout the weekend, the mother said it appeared Nicholas' condition continued to decline, and he did not feel well. When Hokanson made Nicholas walk in the yard, he screamed.

By Monday night (June 22), Nicholas appeared to be having problems breathing and did not sleep. His condition apparently did not improve the following day.

When Hokanson picked Nicholas up from his nap, he observed that Nicholas did not have any muscle control. When the couple went to place Nicholas in the car, they observed he was turning blue. They called 911 for help.

Dakota County deputies questioned Hokanson after Nicholas' death. At first, Hokanson denied losing his temper with the child. Later, he said there were times he would put his hand over Nicholas' mouth because he would scream. Hokanson said he had shaken Nicholas "a little bit." Once he shook Nicholas by grabbing him by the shoulders and "he went back and forth." Hokanson said he shook Nicholas no less than 10 times, no more than 15 times." He admitted he may have caused Nicholas' injuries.

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