SALT LAKE CITY — A southern Utah man accused of killing his girlfriend's young child tried to cover up the crime by claiming there was an ATV accident, then convinced the boy's mother to go along with the story, prosecutors say.
Gavin Michael Haar, 25, was charged Wednesday in Iron County's 5th District Court with murder, a first-degree felony; child abuse, a second-degree felony; and child abuse, a third-degree felony.
His girlfriend, Brittany Juanita Hall, 25, was charged with child abuse and obstructing justice, second-degree felonies, and child abuse, a third-degree felony.
Haar lived in Cedar City with Hall, who was the biological mother of the 2-year-old boy, according to court records.
"Hall and Haar would live in the homes of different friends or family members," charging documents state.
On June 12, while Hall was at work and Haar was home watching the boy, she received a text message from Haar that there was an emergency. Just a little over an hour after Hall received the first message, the boy was pronounced dead at a Cedar City hospital, according to the charges.
His body "was covered with numerous bruises on his forehead, eyes, ears, mouth and several circular bruises on the chest and abdomen," the charges state. "The medical examiner concluded that (the boy) died of blunt force injuries to the abdomen. … The medical examiner determined the manner of death was homicide."
Haar told investigators that he was riding on a four-wheel ATV with the boy three days earlier and was going too fast and rolled, the charges state. He claimed the boy "was pinned under the four-wheeler where the gas tank was on his chest and the handle bars across his face."
Despite the crash, Haar claimed that the boy "was fine and (he) did not take him to the doctor," according to the charges.
Hall also told police that the couple had gone camping, that Haar rolled his ATV, and that her son "cried because he was scared but that he did not complain of any pain." But charging documents also note that "there were stark inconsistencies between Hall's version of events and Haar's version as to the time of day of the crash, and the details of the camping trip."
Upon further investigation, police learned that the mother was actually working on the night of the alleged camping trip "and could not have been on the mountain camping when she reportedly witnessed the four-wheeler accident," the charges state.
When confronted by police about the apparent lie and why she told her story, Hall said "because that is what he tells me and that's all I have to go off of," investigators wrote in the court documents.
When asked whose idea it was to tell the camping story, the mother replied: "It's him if he is telling me. I'm not the one coming up with it; he is telling me what is going on," the charges state.
Haar later claimed he also took the boy to a playground the day after the ATV crash and that he "fell off of some playground equipment and hit his face and hurt his mouth," according to the charges.
Prosecutors further discovered that Haar was kicked out of one of the homes they had lived in "due to his bad temper and the abusive manner in which he treated (the girlfriend and boy)," charging documents say.
Police also said they discovered more text messages on Haar's phone that were allegedly sent about 6 ½ hours before the boy was taken to the hospital. In the message, he appears to be upset with something Hall did.
"I'm (expletive) livid. And your son is about to get (a) … beating," one text states, according to court records.
About 45 minutes after Hall left for work, Haar texted her to say that the boy was not breathing, the charges state.
If you or someone you love is in a violent relationship, call this free hotline open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
- Utah Domestic Violence Link Line (Utah Domestic Violence Coalition): 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
Correction: In an earlier version, the deceased child was identified in one instance as a girl. The child was a boy.