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Man charged in stepson's death

The stepfather of a toddler who died in Pierce County has been charged with murder for allegedly inflicting the injuries that led to death of 17-month-old Nicholas Arthur Miller.

Tylar J. Hokanson, 22, who was most recently living with relatives in Northfield, Minn., was charged July 1 with unintentional murder during an assault. A Dakota County (Minn.) judge set bail at $500,000 without conditions or $350,000 with conditions.

According to the criminal complaint, at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 23, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department received a 911 call from a home in Maiden Rock. When EMTs and deputies arrived at the scene, they began CPR on the child, who was then taken to a hospital in Durand where he was pronounced dead.

The Pierce County deputy medical examiner who viewed the body noticed bruising and ordered an autopsy at the Ramsey Medical Examiner's Office.

The preliminary autopsy report identified the cause of the boy's death as multiple blunt-force injuries and classified the death as a homicide.

The autopsy report documented multiple injuries that occurred over time. Those included bleeding in the child's brain, broken ribs, a broken vertebra in his lower back, cuts on his tongue and in his mouth and multiple bruises on his skin, scalp and muscles.

According to the complaint, the boy's mother, Melissa L. Hokanson, 18, said she and the father of Nicholas and his older sister alternate weeks caring for the children.

Brian Miller dropped his children off at Melissa's mother's home in rural Dakota County the afternoon of Friday, June 19.

Melissa told investigators that by the time she and Tylar took the children to his mother and stepfather's house in Maiden Rock the afternoon of Monday, June 22, Nicholas screamed when he attempted to walk, would barely eat, was not holding his head up, had a bad smell and wasn't breathing well.

When questioned by Dakota County deputies on June 27, Tylar Hokanson admitted to shaking Nicholas a few days before his death "no less than 10, no less than 15 times." According to the criminal complaint, Hokanson said he suspected he had injured the boy when Nicholas started losing color, didn't want to play and just sat there.

While the child died in Pierce County, charges were filed in Minnesota because authorities believe that's where the fatal injuries occurred.

The conditions for the lower bail are that Hokanson have no contact with his wife, children or stepchildren.

His next court appearance is set for 1 p.m. July 27 in Hastings, Minn.