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Suspect in Fargo infant death seeks plea agreement

A plea deal is likely for Arthur Mark Berger, the man charged with manslaughter in the death of an infant girl he's suspected of passing out on after drinking while baby-sitting her.

Arthur Mark Berger
Arthur Mark Berger

A plea deal is likely for Arthur Mark Berger, the man charged with manslaughter in the death of an infant girl he's suspected of passing out on after drinking while baby-sitting her.

Police believe Berger passed out on the 2-month-old daughter of friends, Valencia Johnson and George Schultz, while Johnson and Schultz were at the Nestor bar in Fargo the night of Oct. 30.

The couple found Berger on top of the girl on their couch when they returned from the bar at 2 a.m. Oct. 21 to their residence in the 1300 block of First Avenue North in Fargo. A second family friend was also passed out on the floor.

Schultz attempted CPR on his daughter, according to police reports, but she was pronounced dead by emergency room doctors.

Berger was arrested and charged with manslaughter and abuse or neglect of a child, both felonies.

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He pleaded not guilty to the charges in Cass County District Court on Thursday, and his next court appearance is set for Jan. 27.

The case could be settled before then with a plea deal, said Berger's public defender, Daniel Gast.

"I'm not anticipating it's heading to trial," he said. "What happened, happened - there's no denying that. A little girl passed away."

Gast and Cherie Clark, an assistant state's attorney, said they've discussed a deal but haven't reached one yet. No potential terms were disclosed.

Clark wouldn't say whether prosecutors would be willing to scale back from manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Berger, 46, has taken the girl's death hard, Gast said. He knew the family well and even baby-sat her older sister when the girl who died was born.

"He seems like a nice, genuine man," Gast said.

Clark said the concerns of the girl's parents would be a factor in agreeing to a joint plea recommendation, but they haven't expressed whether they'd prefer stiff punishment or leniency.

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She said they are still dealing with the grief of losing their baby daughter.

"The consequences for the defendant are the least of their worries," she said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are owned by Forum Communications Co.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTY
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