MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul police are investigating the first homicide in the city this year, trying to determine what led to a 3-year-old girl’s death early Sunday morning. Her parents are in custody on suspicion of murder.

The St. Paul Police Department says officers found the child dead around 2:30 a.m. in a home on the 1000 block of East 3rd Street in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. A man had called the city’s non-emergency line from that address and hung up, prompting a police response. Officers spoke with the child’s father at the home, who said that he thought his 3-year-old daughter was dead on the back porch. Officers found the girl unresponsive, and paramedics later pronounced her dead.

The child’s parents, a 29-year-old woman and a 42-year-old man, were brought to police headquarters and later booked into jail on suspicion of murder, police say. Investigators interviewed the couple but are still working to figure out what led up to the child’s death.

Five other children, ranging in age from 9 months old to 11 years old, were at the home at the time the 3-year-old’s death. Ramsey County Child Protection now has custody of the children, police say.

The name of the 3-year-old girl has yet to be released. Her identity and cause of death will be released by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office.

For neighbors and officers, the death Sunday registered alike as a stunning tragedy.

“Somebody with their whole life ahead of them like that is really sad,” said David Lijewski, who lives across the street. “I actually saw her on the steps yesterday kicking snow off the side of the steps, and I said I hope she doesn’t slip and fall.”

(credit: CBS)

Sgt. Mike Ernster with with the St. Paul Police Department says anyone who was involved with responding to this call will never forget it.

“Any time a 3 year old is dead on a scene, it’s suspicious,” Ernster said “A lot of officers have children of their own. Me, when I would respond to these calls as a patrol officer, I would tend to immediately think of my own kids and almost see them in that position, and it’s heartbreaking.”

He didn’t immediately know if any weapons were found in the house. He also wasn’t aware of any signs of violence or trauma to the girl.

This is the second death of a child in the capital city in recent weeks. Two days before Christmas, a 2-year-old boy was fatally shot in the city’s North End neighborhood. Earl Williams, 39, of St. Paul, is charged with manslaughter in connection to that shooting.

David Schuman