Courtroom - Photo courtesy of Sadmir Kanovicki on Pexels

A 22-year-old Riverside man accused of killing his 3-month-old daughter by wrapping her in a heavy blanket to silence her crying, causing the infant to suffocate, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder and other charges.

Kyle David Benitez was arrested in June following a months-long investigation by the Riverside Police Department into the death of the child, identified in court documents only by her initials, “E.B.”

Along with murder, Benitez is charged with assault on a minor resulting in death and child cruelty.

He was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sean Crandell, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Sept. 7 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.

The defendant is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

According to police spokesman Officer Ryan Railsback, last Dec. 30, patrol officers were sent to Benitez’s residence on Sycamore Canyon Boulevard to investigate reports of an unexplained infant death.

Railsback said paramedics notified officers because the circumstances connected with the fatality were unclear.

Detectives from the police department’s Sexual Assault-Child Abuse Unit were assigned to the case and ultimately gathered evidence pointing to an alleged intentional act by her father, Railsback said.

He said it appeared Benitez had “purposely wrapped (E.B.) in a heavy blanket and positioned her in a way to get her to stop crying.”

An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be “suffocation in the manner of a homicide,” according to the police spokesman.

Benitez was taken into custody at his apartment without incident on the night of June 23.

No charges have been filed against the infant’s mother, whose identity was not released.

The defendant has no documented prior felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County.

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