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Man charged in Fargo child's death by asphyxiation

Arthur Berger

While baby-sitting for family friends Friday night, Arthur Mark Berger passed out from intoxication and allegedly asphyxiated a 2-month-old child by falling asleep on top of it.

Berger, 46, no permanent address, appeared Monday in Cass County District Court to face charges of manslaughter and child abuse.

According to the Fargo police report:

The child's parents, George Schultz and Valencia Johnson, went to the Nestor bar in Fargo about 8 p.m. Friday. They left their two children with Berger to baby-sit at their residence in the 1300 block of First Avenue North.

Schultz and Johnson returned home about 2 a.m. Saturday. They found Berger passed out on the couch on top of their 2-month-old child, who was not breathing.

Another family friend, Cret Irvin, also was passed out from intoxication on the floor near the couch.

Johnson called 911, while Schultz began to administer CPR on the child.

Ambulance personnel had no success with resuscitation, and the child was taken to the hospital, where it was pronounced dead by emergency room doctors.

Authorities would not comment previously on the name or gender of the child, but the police report makes reference to the child being a girl.

An attempt by The Forum to reach Schultz and Johnson at their residence on Saturday was unsuccessful.

Berger, who has ties to Fargo and Dickinson, N.D., was arrested Saturday by Fargo police following the infant's death.

He faces charges of manslaughter, a Class B felony carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and abuse or neglect of a child, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years.

The manslaughter charge accuses Berger of "recklessly causing the death" of the child by lying on top of it and causing the child to asphyxiate.

In Berger's initial appearance in Cass County District Court on Monday via closed-circuit television from the Cass County Jail, Judge Georgia Dawson asked Berger how long he'd lived in the area and whether he'd been working.

Berger said he'd been in the Fargo area for about eight years and worked off and on during that time, most recently at Labor Ready.

Daniel Gast, a public defender appointed on Monday to represent Berger, declined to comment on the case.

Dawson set Berger's bail at $25,000 cash or bond, with release conditions requiring him to abstain from using alcohol and to submit to daily alcohol testing by Cass County sheriff's deputies.

His next court appearance is set for Dec. 3.