Ronnie Lofton, Jr.

By Shereen Siewert

A jury trial is underway for a Wausau father facing charges of first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the death of his infant son.

Charges of first-degree reckless homicide were filed Feb. 12, 2021 against 41-year-old Ronnie Lofton, Jr., roughly one month after his 3-month-old son died. Police say the boy had 21 rib fractures in various stages of healing when he died of blunt force trauma in January 2021. But the original charge was upgraded to first-degree intentional homicide months later.

Changes to charges can be made for many reasons but are often based on the District Attorney’s ongoing assessment of the case.

Police say they were notified on a late Saturday in January 2021 of a 3-month-old infant with an unexplained life-threatening brain injury. The boy was brought to Aspirus Wausau Hospital by his mother and father, but was immediately transported to Marshfield Children’s Hospital due to his grave condition.

Prosecutors say the infant had “suspicious bruising” and an anoxic brain injury. Anoxic brain injuries are caused by a complete lack of oxygen to the brain, which results in the death of brain cells after approximately four minutes, medical officials say.

The boy died five days later.

Autopsy results pinpointed the cause of death as blunt force trauma, while a skeletal survey revealed the rib fractures and significant bruising on the boy’s body. The doctor performing the autopsy identified a closed head injury with three scalp hemorrhages consistent with the child’s head being struck with or against something solid. A skull fracture on the left side of the head and a subdural hemorrhage were also noted in court documents.

Prosecutors say the child was in Lofton’s care while the boy’s mother went grocery shopping. When she arrived home, the boy was moaning in his pack and play, had one eye closed and did not respond when she picked him up, according to the criminal complaint.

In interviews with police, Lofton allegedly tried to blame the child’s injuries on other children in the home and said bruising on the boy’s abdomen was due to a diaper that was too tight, according to the criminal complaint.

Court records show Lofton has a string of prior criminal convictions for battery, intimidating a victim, burglary, knowingly violating a domestic abuse restraining order and disorderly conduct. On Oct. 26, 2020 he was charged in Marathon County Circuit Court with battery, disorderly conduct-domestic abuse and resisting or obstructing an officer and was free on bond at the time of his son’s death. That case has not yet concluded.

In May Lofton pleaded guilty to four lesser charges in the case: Carrying a concealed knife, possession of drug paraphernalia and two counts of bail jumping, Prosecutors moved forward on the homicide charge and aim to prove the death was intentional.

Jury selection was completed Wednesday morning with opening statements given on both sides if the aisle. The trial is expected to last up to 10 days.