The Case of the Two Abigails

One infant dies with her head in a noose, another dies inside a toy chest. Each was in a father's care, and homicide cops want answers

"Oh, gosh," Ballentine replies. "There's a ton. Her whole little back is pretty covered. Do you know how that happened?"

"Just little falls. Like I said, she's really clumsy."

Out of nowhere, the detective asks Eric, "You bathe her?"

Amy Minor (left), with her son Ian and mother, Faith Nyman, at the site of Abbey's Garden.
Peter Scanlon
Amy Minor (left), with her son Ian and mother, Faith Nyman, at the site of Abbey's Garden.
Abbey Minor suffocated inside this cardboard toy box.
Abbey Minor suffocated inside this cardboard toy box.

"Yeah, she actually took a shower with me this morning."

Eric reiterates that he saw no bruises on Abbey's back, before, during or after the shower.

"In the autopsy, they can tell everything that's happened to a child," Ballentine says, moving the intensity level in the room up a notch. "I think it's gonna be pretty safe to say that they're going to say there's substantial [injuries]. And that concerns me quite a bit because there's really no explanation."

"Okay," is all Eric musters in response.

"This is your baby," the detective reminds him.

"I know. She meant the world to me."

Ballentine mentions his own two sons, telling Eric that "one thing I do know is anger with a child. I know how something can happen with a child and you can lose your temper.

"And what I'm telling you right here is, I know you did [lose your temper]."

"I do not ever lose my temper with my child," Eric replies, surprisingly calm under the circumstances. "I yell. And I will testify that I yell."

"I understand that. But you did something to your baby."

"No, I did not, sir."

"I think you did. Because there's no explanation for the injuries to that child."

"There's none," Eric says.

"And you understand that you're the only person there with her?"

"Yes," Eric says, adding he'll take a polygraph test to prove his innocence.

Changing direction, Eric points out that he's taken anger-management classes and undergone therapy for his problems.

"Usually if I get mad and I'm going to blow up, I don't touch people," he says. "I put holes in walls. Once in a while, I get too stressed."

"What stresses you?" Ballentine asks.

"Well, I'm an unemployed father. I don't make money. My wife pays all the bills. And it kind of gets to you, when you feel like a lowlife dad who can't support your wife and children."

Eric says his current mental-health treatment is from a "buddy who took psychology in college. He's cheap, he's free, and he kind of knows what he's there for."

Just before midnight, Ballentine allows Eric to return to family and friends, who are milling around outside the emergency room. The detective hooks up with Alex Femenia, who's just finished interviewing Amy's parents, Tom Minor and Faith Nyman, who are divorced.

Minor said he'd taken Abbey and Amy to dinner the previous night and "both of them looked beautiful."

Of Eric Natzel, he said, "He's never supported the family he made. All of my dreams have been shattered by a man who just won't go to work."

Amy's mother's assessment of Eric was equally precise: "He and I do not click. He's an abusive husband."

Faith Nyman described to Femenia how Eric once threatened to kill her after she confronted him about his mistreatment of Abbey, then a newborn:

"I saw him shake her, shake her! He was saying, 'Shut up, you fuckin' bitch. Shut up!' He was holding her by her arms. She wasn't quite three months old. He pushed her right down on the couch. I went and took her and told him he needed a break. He said he was going to slit my throat from ear to ear, that he'd done it before. I called 911 and got out of there."

Eric never was arrested in connection with that incident.

"In the beginning, Amy would run away from him a lot," Nyman told Femenia. "But she wouldn't admit that he ever hit her, though I'd seen bruises. You know how you have this horrible, horrible feeling hanging over you."

Ballentine and Femenia step outside to regroup for a moment with Sergeant Kotecki.

Ballentine speaks sadly of the toy box: "That was our little victim's coffin."

Just then, Eric Natzel's friends greet him about 25 yards from the cops. Within moments, he's laughing and carrying on with his pals.

"I know people deal with grief differently, but I'm not exactly seeing grief over there," Kotecki says, gesturing over at Eric. "I mean, his baby is lying dead right inside that door, and he's laughing? Shit."

Ballentine's interview of Amy Natzel begins just after midnight.

He's gentle with this fragile young woman, who insists throughout that Eric is a good dad.

Amy says she, too, saw the bruises on Abbey's head at the hospital. But she tries to explain them away by saying her daughter "falls all the time."

She insists she never saw her husband hit their daughter.

"But he's got a problem with anger," Ballentine replies. "That's my concern in all this."

"But he's never directed it at people," Amy tells him, a touch of desperation creeping into her voice.

"Let's be honest with each other here," the detective says. "[Eric] made it very clear to me that when he put her to bed today, she had no injuries on her. When he was sitting with her in that room over there, he realized she had significant injuries. And he has no idea how they got there. And I'm hoping it concerns you as much as it concerns me, because that's your baby. And he's made it clear that he's got a real problem with anger that's at times uncontrollable, and what I'm concerned about is that this baby suffered in death because there's far too many injuries on this child."

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1 comments
Ladyfree
Ladyfree

Thanks Mr. Rubin,

I just finished reading your article, and my question is what did CPS do to the mother in this case? Did they question whether she new about the bruising or what? Here you have a fatality and the mother goes on with her life, when many (thousands) of other mothers are harassed by CPS and threatened to have their rights taken from them! Some for minor to serious injuries, but not fatal! Bias, in all sense of the word! Arizona CPS needs to be investigated at how they mishandle the lives of children & families in Arizona! This is a good article Maybe next time you'll try going alongside a CPS investigator or caseworker! There's a lot there to be uncovered also!

 
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