Man charged with murder after gripping infant’s head like football, using wrestling moves on him

EL PASO, Texas — Ahren DeHart’s regular babysitter called in sick.

The 13-month-old’s parents, an Army specialist stationed at Fort Bliss and a local hospital worker, needed to find a replacement babysitter on April 12, so they left their son with a friend, Marvin Rex Lake, according to family.

Authorities allege that when Araya Coffey returned that night from her job working labor and delivery at the Hospitals of Providence Memorial Campus, her son was dying.

Lake, 24, of El Paso, was arrested Monday on a capital murder charge in Ahren’s death, according to the El Paso Police Department. The infant died Friday at El Paso Children’s Hospital, where he had been on life support since his hospitalization.

An arrest affidavit obtained by KTSM in El Paso outlines horrific allegations of abuse at the hands of Lake, who was reportedly discharged last year from the Army.

At the time of the alleged crime, Lake was also watching another infant and a toddler while their mother was working. His Facebook page indicates that the other mother is his girlfriend.

Police were called in the early morning hours of April 13 to the hospital where Ahren was being treated for multiple skull fractures, bleeding in his lungs, abdominal injuries and bruises on his face and body. A medical examiner later determined his death was caused by intentional trauma.

Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details.

On the afternoon of April 12, Lake had a video call with his girlfriend, who showed Coffey the call, according to KFOX14, which also obtained the court records. At that time, Ahren appeared “in good health and alert, but was crying and fussy.”

In a second call at 10:50 p.m., Lake told the woman Ahren had “rag-dolled” and vomited a red substance. The Urban Dictionary defines the slang term as when someone is “forcefully grabbed and shaken with such ferocity” that the person being shaken goes limp, resembling a rag doll.

Lake told his girlfriend he wasn’t sure if the red substance was blood.

By the time the witness and Coffey got to Lake’s apartment, Ahren was unresponsive and his breathing was irregular. They called 911.

Doctors at the children’s hospital declared the boy brain dead.

Lake initially denied causing Ahren’s injuries, a detective wrote. Even after being shown photos of the baby’s obvious injuries, Lake claimed not to know how they happened.

He told detectives Ahren had sat on a futon and watched television, KFOX14 reported.

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As the interview went on, Lake’s story changed. He told detectives he’d performed several “wrestling-style moves” on Ahren, at one point dropping him.

The boy’s head struck the frame of the futon, he said.

Lake also admitted he’d gripped the baby’s head tightly like a football after growing angry, the affidavit states. He told detectives he was angry because the baby had ripped a pillow.

Lake said he had anger issues and didn’t realize his own strength, KFOX14 reported.

Police allege that when the detectives and Lake took a break in his questioning, Lake called a witness in the case and placed her on speaker phone. Lake told the woman he was responsible for the baby’s internal injuries but had not caused the skull fractures, according to KTSM.

The two other children in Lake’s care also had injuries, El Paso police said. Their injuries are under investigation.

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Lake was not immediately arrested as detectives continued their investigation. Part of the probe was documenting evidence at Lake’s apartment.

While taking photos, they exposed the frame of the futon on which Ahren’s head was injured.

On Thursday, the day before Ahren was removed from life support, Lake showed up at police headquarters.

He sought reimbursement for damages to his futon, the affidavit states.

Lake is being held without bond at the El Paso County Jail.