FREEHOLD, NJ — A Wall Township man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 6-week-old daughter, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Austin Meli, 23, was arrested on January 23, following an investigation that started on March 9, 2019 after Wall police responded to a call about an unresponsive infant girl at a township residence, according to a statement by the prosecutor's office. She was subsequently pronounced dead at Ocean Medical Center, Brick.

The investigation determined that the 6-week-old was in the immediate care of Meli, her father, at the time she was found to be unresponsive, the office said. And when additional details surrounding her death were provided to investigators, Meli was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree aggravated assault.

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Meli faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in state prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. He currently is being held at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold.

If anyone has any information that can assist the investigative team, they are urged to call Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Shawn Murphy at 732-431-7160, ext. 7032, or Wall Police Detective Chris Lisewski at 732-449-4800, ext. 1140.

This case has been assigned to Monmouth County Prosecutor Ellyn Rajfer. Meli is represented by attorney Jeffrey Coghlan of Freehold.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and state law.

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