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Michigan man shook 2-year-old stepdaughter and severed her spine, killing her

(Photo: WSBT)

DOWAGIAC, Mich. (WSBT) — A Michigan man is behind bars after police say he shook his 2-year-old stepdaughter and severed her spinal cord, killing her.

Lance Reeves, 43, is charged with one count of murder and three counts of child abuse. He was arrested on Thursday.

According to court documents, on October 19, 2016 Reeves was at his home with the 2-year-old, Savannah, and her mother. The mother was in bed while Reeves was watching the child.

Reeves told police he then went to put Savannah down for a nap.

"Reeves said he left the bedroom and only got a few steps away from the room and heard Savannah yell," investigators wrote in a probable cause affidavit. "He went back into the room and Savannah was in bed, white as a piece of paper."

Reeves and Savannah's mother took Savannah to a local hospital where she later died.

Autopsy results showed Savannah had multiple contusions and a severed spine. Her cause of death was listed as "traumatic injury of the torso." Her death was ruled a homicide.

Investigators began to dig deeper and came across an incident that happened in April 2016. Reeves, Savannah and Savannah's mother were at the Roberts Corey Lake Campground in Three Rivers, Michigan. A witness told investigators Savannah was crying so her mother went to go get her sippy cup.

The witness then told investigators she saw Reeves "pick Savannah up and violently shake her back and forth three or four times."

Reeves then put Savannah in a camper and told her to "shut up" and "not to come out until she quit crying," according to court documents.

“This matter, I mean obviously it’s a significant tragedy whenever somebody at the age of 2 or any age you know passes away," Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said. "But you know when it’s under these circumstances, it’s even more of a tragedy.”

The abuse and murder investigation took more than two years to complete. Fitz says some cases require more time than others.

"This is simply one where there was medical evidence that had to be reviewed and a number of other evidentiary issues that resulted in being charged at this time," Fitz said.

Reeves was arraigned on Friday and was denied bond. He pleaded not guilty. If convicted Reeves could spend the rest of his life in jail.

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