Fridley man pleads guilty to murdering infant son

A Fridley man has pleaded guilty to murdering his 5-month-old son at their home last year.

Aaron Michael Orlando Rathke, 24, was charged in October with second-degree intentional murder in connection with the death of Kaiden Michael Rathke on March 1, 2023. In September, a coroner ruled the baby’s death a homicide, caused by blunt-force injuries.

Aaron Michael Orlando Rathke (Courtesy of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office)

Rathke entered an Alford plea to the charge as part of a plea agreement he reached last week with the Anoka County attorney’s office. An Alford plea means he maintained his innocence while acknowledging the prosecution likely had enough evidence to convict him.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a 25-year prison sentence, the court document says. He remained jailed Wednesday in lieu of $1 million bail ahead of a June 24 sentencing hearing.

Rathke and Ahnisah Simone Waters drove their child to the Fridley police department on March 1 after he had stopped breathing. When they arrived at the police station, the infant did not have a pulse. Officers began CPR and the child was taken to Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

According to the charges, Rathke told police that he took the baby into a bedroom to change his diaper. He said the infant vomited and stopped breathing. He said did chest compressions but they were unsuccessful so he and the mother took the infant to the police station.

They did not call 911, he said, because in other cases when the baby had stopped breathing they had been able to “bring him back,” the charges say.

He said the child would sometimes have trouble breathing or “forget to breathe” and it had been happening every few weeks since the baby was 4 months old. He said he would do chest compressions with his fingers to get the baby to breathe again.

During further questioning, Rathke told detectives that the baby was a quiet child who would “holler” if he was picked up or touched. He described changing the baby’s diaper by saying “it was hell” and that the baby would “scream his lungs out.”

Then Rathke said he’d been diagnosed as bipolar, “which results in him getting angry and having ‘mini outbursts’ and ‘blank out,’” where he is unable to remember things. He denied having any of those behaviors with his son.

Less than a week later, Rathke gave another statement to police saying he may have hugged the baby “a little too hard,” adding that he always gave the boy big hugs because “that way, I wouldn’t lose it.”

Later, on June 6, detectives learned that Waters had sent a message to a friend through Snapchat saying that Rathke had “killed the baby.”

Then Waters sent Rathke’s mother a message saying that she was scared to say anything but that she had been in the room when the baby died. She wrote: “He suffocated him and put him to sleep and then pushed on his chest to bring him back.”

In August, Waters told police that Rathke had killed their child. She gave another statement the next month, saying she had been afraid to tell police what really happened because Rathke had been abusive to her. She said Rathke told her he would put pressure on his son’s throat to make him pass out when he was having trouble getting him to go to sleep.

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