Cumberland County Sheriff's deputies arrested Special Forces soldier Daniel Carlson Thursday morning. Detectives say he was alone with Andrea Chavarria around 10 p.m. Thursday, when Carlson called 911 and said his stepdaughter was not breathing.
Emergency crews took the girl to the hospital, where she died around 3 a.m. Friday.
An autopsy shows Chavarria died of severe injuries caused by trauma. Investigators say she had evidence of old injuries and was undernourished.
Investigators say inside Carlson's home on Rim Road, there were cleaning supplies. Authorities believe someone tried to clean something off the carpet before the ambulance arrived.
Officials say Carlson has 16 years of experience as a Special Forces soldier. Just over a month ago, he returned from a mission in Columbia where he trained members of their military to defend themselves.
Sheriff Moose Butler said no matter what his training is, there is no excuse for abusing a defenseless child.
"I don't think the military has anything to do with this kind of tragedy," he said.
A special operations spokesman said Carlson attended briefings for two weeks when he returned from South America. The sessions became mandatory after several domestic murders involving Fort Bragg soldiers last summer. The goal of the sessions is to ease a soldier's transition back into the household.
Carlson married Chavarria's mother in February. Investigators are also considering whether to file charges against her mother.
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