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Daniel Degele

Daniel Degele

BILLINGS – A 26-year-old man accused of raping a 23-month-old girl – who police said suffered life-threatening injuries – made an initial court appearance Thursday on two felony charges.

Officers arrested Daniel Joseph Degele, 26, on Wednesday after searching a residence on Third Avenue South, according to police.

Charging documents say he waived his rights and admitted to detectives that he raped the child on Nov. 30.

“He was left alone with the victim and her two brothers for a total of about five minutes. During that time, the defendant raped (the girl) … causing severe lacerations and massive bleeding,” Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Paul W. Adam said during bond arguments in Degele’s initial court appearance.

Justice of the Peace Pedro R. Hernandez followed Adam’s recommendation and set bond at $250,000. Hernandez also ordered Degele to wear a GPS monitor and stay at least 500 feet away from the victim and her family if bond is posted.

The victim’s brothers “potentially witnessed this as well, which is also very concerning to the state,” Adam said.

At about 2:40 p.m. on Nov. 30, police responded to Billings Clinic, where a 23-month-old girl had been brought to the emergency room with bleeding and internal injuries.

After a sexual assault examination, done while the child was under anesthesia, she was flown to Denver Children’s Hospital for surgery, according to prosecutors.

On Wednesday, police said in a news release the injuries “appeared life-threatening.”

Degele, dressed in a white jail uniform, appeared in Yellowstone County Justice Court by video from the county jail.

Assistant Public Defender Clark Mathews made a courtesy appearance with Degele and asked that bond be set at $75,000, citing Degele’s lifelong ties to the community and lack of criminal history.

Degele asked to be appointed a public defender. If he qualifies, he will be assigned a dedicated court-appointed attorney at a later date.

Immediately after the five-minute hearing, detention officers escorted Degele out of the jail’s video arraignment room, where several other inmates were present.

Degele faces two counts of felony sexual intercourse without consent.

Because of the victim’s age, the charges carry a sentence of up to 100 years, and parole eligibility is restricted for a minimum of 25 years, according to charging documents.

Hernandez scheduled Degele to enter pleas to the charges in Yellowstone County District Court at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 16, when Degele again will be able to argue for a lower bond.

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