Father arrested in connection with 2011 death of infant

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by Natalie Brand

Bio | Email | Follow: @NatalieBrand

azfamily.com

Posted on January 15, 2014 at 10:45 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 17 at 10:06 AM

PHOENIX -- More than two years after his infant daughter's death, a man has been booked on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse.

James Anthony Sirmans, 28, of Glendale, was taken into custody Tuesday, after specialists in pediatric forensic pathology recently classified the manner of death as homicide, according to Phoenix police.

His bond is set at $1 million.

On New Year's Eve in 2011, Phoenix police received a 911 call about a 9-month-old girl who wasn't breathing.

Sirmans told police he put his daughter, Celeste, down for a nap in the second story of his apartment. He said he checked on her 30 minutes later and found her in need of medical attention.

The infant was pronounced dead at a hospital.

“There was a lot of bruising,” said Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Steve Martos. “Obviously, there was some suspicion on the part of detectives that this may be more."

When a doctor from the Medical Examiner's Office was unable to determine the cause of death, detectives contacted the pathologists.

Martos said observations at the scene and interviews conducted led investigators to believe the child's death was suspicious.

“It was decided we would reach out to more experts to get their opinion," he said.

Last August, the pathologists determined the death was a homicide, and police submitted the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to obtain an indictment, Martos said.

Sirmans was arrested at Reiter's Custom Welding, where he is employed.

“I believe he’s innocent,” said his employer, Don Reiter. "The detectives always told him they were going to come after him."

Reiter said he was worked with Sirmans for several years.

“I think they’re making a mistake,” he said. “He couldn’t hurt anybody. He’s just a good guy.”

Sirmans' wife declined to comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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