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Vancouver man faces murder allegation in death of 5-year-old girl

Bail set at $5 million

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:
8 Photos
Family and friends of Hartley Anderson gather for the first appearance of Ryan M. Burge, who is suspected of killing the 5-year-old, at the Clark County Courthouse on Monday morning, Nov. 5, 2018.
Family and friends of Hartley Anderson gather for the first appearance of Ryan M. Burge, who is suspected of killing the 5-year-old, at the Clark County Courthouse on Monday morning, Nov. 5, 2018. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Emotions ran high during a first court appearance Monday morning for 37-year-old Ryan M. Burge, who stands accused of killing his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter.

Sobs and outbursts could be heard from the gallery as Senior Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes provided several details about the death of Hartley Anderson.

Vancouver police previously reported that Hartley suffered severe head trauma. Hayes said investigators found multiple impacts in the drywall inside the apartment where the girl was found. Strands of her hair were collected from some of the impacts, he said.

The girl’s father rushed at Burge during the court appearance, but he was subdued by several corrections deputies and escorted from the courtroom. Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Brent Waddell said the man was not arrested for his outburst.

Burge faces allegations of second-degree murder and first-degree assault of a child in Clark County Superior Court. He appeared wearing a suicide-prevention smock, given to inmates who may try to harm themselves with standard jail clothing, and did not speak during the brief hearing.

Judge Bernard Veljacic granted the prosecution’s request for $5 million bail.

Officers responded at 5 p.m. Friday at the Madison Park Apartments, 12901 N.E. 28th St., where emergency responders were treating the girl for severe head trauma, according to a Vancouver Police Department news release.

The girl’s mother, Natasha Luchau, called 911 and reported that Hartley “reportedly threw herself into a wall and was unresponsive,” and she “was bleeding badly and had shallow breathing,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

The child was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center then, because of the severity of her injuries, transferred to Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland where she died, police said.

A neurosurgeon at the children’s hospital told a detective that the girl suffered a stroke and massive brain swelling. The doctor said the injuries to her head “could not be self-inflicted,” the affidavit says.

Officers determined that Burge, who’d been dating Luchau for about three months, had been baby-sitting Hartley all day. Luchau was at work, and her sons were at school, according to the affidavit.

Detectives interviewed Burge at the Vancouver Police Department’s West Precinct later Friday night. Burge said Hartley “threw a temper tantrum” when they left the grocery store because he refused to let her go back inside and buy candy, according to the affidavit.

When they got home, Burge said he sent Hartley to her room. The girl started kicking the walls, he said, and when he entered the room, she “spun around and started hitting her head against the wall.” He said he tried to grab Hartley to stop her, but she pushed away, the affidavit says.

Burge said he saw “goose bumps” on the girl’s head and a mark on the side of her forehead. When pressed further about the severity of her injuries, Burge “denied causing any harm to her,” according to the affidavit. Vancouver police subsequently arrested him.

Dozens of family and friends attended Monday’s court hearing wearing black T-shirts with the words “#JusticeForHartley.” As the crowd filed out of the courtroom, the girl’s mother was flanked by loved ones as she wept on a bench before being carried into an elevator. Family members said she hurt herself previously and needed assistance.

The crowd regrouped on the steps of the courthouse.

Family members said they are working through indescribable emotional pain.

“I just don’t know what to think, how someone could do such a thing. (Burge) took her from all of us,” Hartley’s uncle TJ Luchau said.

The family said Hartley celebrated her fifth birthday two weeks ago.

Her aunt, Whitney Luchau, described the young girl as a ball of energy who loved to be around her grandparents and cousins. Hartley also loved to play with her grandpa’s dogs, she said.

Burge showed no warning signs that he’d be capable of harming Hartley, the family said. Her mother never would have left the girl alone with Burge if that was the case, they said. Burge did not have a job and was being supported by Natasha Luchau, Hartley’s grandfather Tim Luchau said.

Hayes, the prosecutor, told the judge that Burge has a federal conviction for conspiracy to commit arson. Court records show a woman filed a temporary protection petition against Burge in 1999 in Clark County, and another woman filed a temporary anti-harassment petition against him earlier this year in Cowlitz County.

Tim Luchau said the family plans to closely follow the court process, and he planned to attend every court hearing when possible.

“I’ll never see her graduate high school or get married,” the grandfather said, fighting back tears. “I hope the system works.”

A GoFundMe has been set up for the girl’s funeral expenses and her family.

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