Paterson pair pleads not guilty in death of 3-year-old girl with brain injury

Jonathan Almodovar, 30, and Damarius Lawson, 33, were arraigned Wednesday.

Jonathan Almodovar, 30, and Damarius Lawson, 33, were arraigned Wednesday. (2/3/16)

PATERSON - A Paterson man and woman have pleaded not guilty in the death of her 3-year-old daughter, who authorities believe was also sexually assaulted.

Jonathan Almodovar, 30, and Damarius Lawson, 33, were arraigned Wednesday. Passaic County prosecutors say the pair was involved in a "quasi-romantic" relationship, noting that Almodovar spent a lot of time at Lawson's home, frequently stayed there overnight and often watched her children.

The girl was brought to the hospital on Jan. 20 after suffering a significant brain injury. She died less than a week later on Jan. 26.

The assistant prosecutor alleges that when the couple found out about the investigation, Lawson tried to cover for Almodovar.

Almodovar is charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault and child endangerment.

Lawson is charged with aggravated manslaughter, child endangerment, tampering with a witness and tampering with physical evidence.

Both suspects remain jailed in lieu of bail. Their lawyers declined to comment after the arraignment.

The case will not go before a grand jury.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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