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OGDEN — An Ogden father has pleaded guilty to murder in the death of his 8-week-old daughter. The plea deal spares him the possibility of a death penalty.
Michael Lee Hatton, 26, pleaded guilty Dec. 7 to murder, a first-degree felony. When he is sentenced next month, he faces a mandatory sentence of at least 15 years and up to life in prison.
Prosecutors handed down the murder charge in October 2016 after his daughter, Avery Hatton, succumbed to extensive injuries she suffered while in her father's care. The charge was amended in June to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony and a capital offense.
In exchange for Hatton's guilty plea, prosecutors reduced the charge back down to murder, taking the possibility of a death penalty off the table.
According to police, 8-week-old Avery Hatton was rushed by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Hospital on Oct. 2, three days after she had reportedly been dropped by her father while he was feeding her. The father said Avery's head had hit his knee and she had banged into an ottoman before she landing facedown on the floor, a police affidavit states.
But a doctor who investigated Avery's extensive injuries said they were "too severe to be caused from the fall Michael described," according to the affidavit.
When medical personnel at the hospital did an X-ray in order to insert a breathing tube for the infant, they discovered severe injuries including fractures on the girl's skull, rib, clavicle and humerus, according to court documents. The child also had bruises on her head and neck.
In addition to the fractures discovered in the X-ray, some of which appeared to have been healing for four to seven days, the doctor discovered swelling in the girl's brain believed to have been caused by violent shaking moments before she stopped breathing.
Avery died at the hospital three days later.
A doctor from the Center for Safe and Healthy Families examined Avery's injuries and determined they were the result of either someone pulling on her limbs or violent shaking.
Hatton and his wife told police they were both originally from Ohio, and had moved in July to Utah from Delaware to live with friends after they both lost their jobs.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 17.