MILLVILLE — To his neighbors, Anthony Rieger was a carefree, friendly young man who would wave as he walked with his pregnant girlfriend, but on Wednesday, those same people were shocked to learn he had been charged with killing his infant daughter.
Authorities said Wednesday they had charged Rieger, 25, of East Oak Road, with aggravated manslaughter in the death of his 11-week-old daughter after she died of head trauma Saturday at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.
Millville police said they first learned of the girl’s injuries when they were called to Inspira Medical Center Vineland at 5 a.m. last Thursday to investigate reports of what they called the youth’s “suspicious injuries.” They said the youth had been taken to the medical center via ambulance, although they would not say who called for the ambulance. Officials with the Millville Rescue Squad declined comment about the transport.
Rieger was originally charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child, police Lt. Ed Zadroga said. He was charged with the offenses in Delaware after he went to the Wilmington hospital, where the infant was being treated, Zadroga said. Rieger was then held in the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington on $75,000 cash bail pending extradition to New Jersey.
Zadroga said Rieger was charged with aggravated manslaughter Monday and by Wednesday was held at the Cumberland County jail in Bridgeton on $1 million cash bail.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae would not comment further about the incident but said no arraignment date for Rieger had been set.
Rieger’s grandmother, Jeanette Roller, of the Fairton section of Fairfield Township, did not want to talk about Rieger or his current situation.
“We really don’t know anything,” Roller said. “That’s what we’re trying to find out. I think the less said about it, the better. I know he is in the wrong, but I can’t see them blaring it all over the paper.”
Neighbors described Rieger as a nice guy who would wave and say hello as he drove his truck or walked his dog along East Oak Road. They said he appeared happy as he strolled the street just months ago with a woman they described as his pregnant girlfriend.
What they never expected, they said, was that Rieger would wind up locked in a jail cell and charged with the death of his infant daughter.
“Oh my god, I don’t believe it,” said Eileen Rubert. “He’s a really great kid.”
Rubert described Rieger as easygoing and friendly, and said his mother, a longtime local educator, died from cancer in December 2010. Rieger, who graduated from Millville High School in 2007, had lived alone on East Oak Road since his mother’s death, neighbors said.
“I thought everything there was great,” Rubert said of the Rieger home.
Another neighbor, Barbara Shope, called Rieger a “beautiful kid” who was friendly and liked to walk his dog.
“That’s unbelievable,” she said of Rieger’s arrest.
Authorities would not identify Rieger’s girlfriend. Rieger’s neighbors said they do not know the woman’s name and never saw Rieger’s daughter.
Zadroga said there was “nothing I could confirm” regarding any problems involving Rieger and his girlfriend.
Officials with the Criminal Division of Superior Court in Cumberland County said this was not the first time Rieger had been charged with a crime.
Records show Rieger was charged with aggravated assault June 7, 2010. Rieger was also charged with possession of marijuana, distribution of prescription drugs and unlawful possession of prescription drugs April 26, 2010. All of the charges were eventually downgraded and remanded to Municipal Court, the Superior Court officials said. The eventual disposition of those charges was not immediately available.
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