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Rochester man charged with child neglect following toddler's death

Darius Dwayne Pitchford, 34, of Rochester, allegedly refused to allow his child, D-Angelo Pavlovic Pitchford, 3, to be treated while at a hospital. The boy was pale, lethargic and had been throwing up. An autopsy showed he died of complications due to a rare hernia condition.

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ROCHESTER — A 34-year-old Rochester man has been charged with felony neglect of a child in Olmsted County District Court in connection with the death of a toddler in February 2022.

A summons to appear in court was filed for Darius Dwayne Pitchford Monday, Nov. 22, 2022, and his first appearance is scheduled for Jan. 4, 2023.

The child, D-Angelo Pavlovic Pitchford, 3, was named in an online obituary posted earlier this year .

"He came into this world with his eyes wide open ready to explore this life, learning so many things before being taught. He was much smarter than his years. As his angel came down and held his hand guiding him onto his next journey, we are left with a hole not only in our hearts but a space in our family that could never be filled. He will be missed deeply," reads part of the obituary.

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"In a case like this we are very conscientious about the nature of the charges selected," Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem wrote in an email to the Post Bulletin. "Here, the allegation is that the level of neglect was “willful” and resulted in the death of the child, essentially leaving the hospital against medical advice with clear warning of the significant dire condition and need for additional examinations.

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In order to file more significant charges, his office would need to prove Pitchford's actions were intentional, he wrote.

"Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a high burden and at the current stage of the investigation, “willful neglect” better fits the evidence we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt," Ostrem wrote.

According to the criminal complaint:

A Rochester police officer was sent to a northwest Rochester residence on Feb. 14, 2022, around 6:40 a.m. for a report of a deceased person. Upon arrival, the officer found that the deceased person was 3-year-old D-Angelo.

Further investigation revealed that Pitchford, D-Angelo's father, had taken the child to the emergency room at Olmsted Medical Center around 11 p.m. the night before, after D-Angelo had been sick all day and complained of a stomachache.

Medical staff told law enforcement that the D-Angelo arrived at the ER pale, lethargic and dehydrated. Pitchford continuously obstructed medical personnel from treating the child and denied any further testing following an initial examination and blood work.

Medical staff told Pitchford that D-Angelo was at risk of kidney failure and dehydration. Medical staff told Pitchford multiple times that further work needed to be done but Pitchford said he was being lied to.

Pitchford signed D-Angelo's discharge papers around 2:07 a.m., Feb. 14, 2022, that noted "return to the ER as soon as possible. Your child may die."

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As Pitchford was leaving, medical personnel again told Pitchford that his child's life was at risk.

Medical personnel were not able to override Pitchford's decision to leave because they could not say with medical certainty what was wrong with D-Angelo.

When Pitchford got home around 2:30 a.m., D-Angelo took his coat off and asked for water and took a couple of sips from a cup Pitchford brought. When Pitchford asked D-Angelo if he was OK, D-Angelo rolled his eyes and moaned, at which point, Pitchford brought D-Angelo to his mother, Andreja Pavlovic.

D-Angelo then lay in the hallway and continued to vomit. The parents gave the boy nausea medicine but he threw that up, too.

Around 5:18 a.m., Pitchford told investigators that he heard D-Angelo rolling around on the floor saying "ma."

Pavlovic told investigators that she and D-Angelo fell asleep on her bed, with him in her arms.

Around 6:30 a.m., she awoke to her phone ringing and she realized D-Angelo was not on the bed anymore.

She found him dead, curled into the fetal position, on the floor.

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An autopsy showed that D-Angelo died due to complications of paraduodenal hernia. The hernia would have been seen on a X-ray and would have required immediate surgery.

"Paraduodenal hernias are rare types of hernias which result from incomplete rotation of the midgut. They may cause acute abdominal pain, chronic digestive disorders, and nonspecific or mild symptoms such as nausea and vomiting," according to the National Library of Medicine .

Pavolic had brought D-Angelo to the hospital for similar reasons on previous occasions in which D-Angelo would receive medical care such as IV fluids and blood draws. Pitchford told investigators that he wanted to take D-Angelo this time so he could ask more questions.

Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at mwasson@postbulletin.com.
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