The man charged in the death of a 3-year-old Pahrump girl made his initial court appearance on Tuesday morning.
Cole Duane Engelson, 38, of Pahrump, appeared before Pahrump Justice Court Judge Gus Sullivan, who read the defendant his rights and set a status check at 9 a.m., Aug. 2. Sullivan informed Engelson that the state must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The defendant informed Sullivan that his family is looking to retain its own legal counsel. Public Defender Harry Gensler, meanwhile, offered to act as legal counsel until Engelson’s defense is established.
Nye County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirk Vitto requested Judge Sullivan hold Engelson without bail.
“The statute states that a person arrested for an offense other than murder in the first degree, must be admitted to bail,” Vitto said. “Because the charge is first-degree murder, the court does not have to admit him to bail because it is discretionary. I asked that he be held without bail and the court agreed. The penalty for first-degree murder is life with the possibility of parole.”
Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue crews were initially dispatched to the home on the 5300 block of E. Manse Road early Saturday evening July 15, for a respiratory emergency involving a 3-year-old girl.
Fire Chief Scott Lewis said upon arrival, medic crews made entry onto the property and were met with a disturbance going on within the residence.
“Crews immediately requested the sheriff’s office as well as additional fire and EMS resources,” Lewis said. “Myself and Engine 1 responded, where upon arrival, we found the crews egressing from the property with the patient. The crews performed a rapid transport to Desert View Hospital. However, that patient was later pronounced dead.”
According to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office arrest report, Lewis noted to deputies the juvenile had bruises all over her body.
Upon making contact with Engelson, the report noted that Engelson stated the girl was his daughter, and provided the victim’s name.
“It was later learned that the juvenile was not his biological child, but they do reside together at that Manse address,” the report stated.
The report went on to note that Engelson said he was giving his “old lady’s” daughter a bath and was drying her off when she became unresponsive.
“Engelson stated that he called the child’s mother, to whom he referred to as his old lady, according to the report. Engelson also stated that he thinks that she called the sheriff’s office. Engelson then stated, “I really don’t know what happened. I really don’t.”
When asked if the girl was unresponsive when she was in the bathtub, Engelson said she was in the shower because they don’t have bathtubs at the home.
Additionally, Engelson said that he was drying the girl off on the counter of the sink when she became limp, according to the report.
He then said, according to the report, that he had two glasses of vodka and water throughout the day.
“Engelson’s story was changing from she was unresponsive in the shower to she might have been unresponsive when he was drying her off,” the report said. “The only statement that Engelson was consistent with, was that he couldn’t remember what happened to the juvenile.”
It was then a deputy handcuffed and detained Engelson while advising him of his Miranda Rights.
Shortly thereafter, Engelson was told the girl had died.
“He started to cry, and he told me all that he could not remember,” the report stated. “He said at one point, he grabbed her because she was limp. He stated that he tried smacking her face because she wasn’t waking up. He also stated that as soon as he found her unresponsive, he called her mom. He stated that there have been times when he drinks, that he will black out. Engelson stated that he had a bad day. He had worked all night and then came home and took the kids to breakfast. Engelson was home alone with the victim when the incident occurred.”
The initial investigation showed that all the other occupants of the house, including the child’s mother, were not at home when the child stopped breathing.
Engelson faces charges of domestic violence, child abuse with substantial bodily harm resulting in death and first-degree murder, authorities have said.
“Engelson is the boyfriend of the child’s mother and had been alone with the child for some time prior to the child’s death,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “Engelson acknowledged his responsibility for the death of the child, however, provided very limited information to detectives with regard to his motive or mechanism.”
Child and Family Services contacted
Detectives executed a search warrant at the residence and searched well into the early morning hours for evidence of exactly what occurred to the child, the sheriff’s office said.
The Division of Child and Family Services was notified to take custody of the other children living in the residence and place them with alternative adult family members pending the outcome of the investigation.
The investigation is continuing. Further details will be released pending the results of an autopsy and completion of the investigation.
The child’s name has not been released.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Nye County Sheriff’s Office at 775-751-7000, attention Detective A. Fernandes or by email at NCSO_Detectives@co.nye.nv.us
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @pvtimes