Guilty plea entered in death of Carson toddler

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) A 26-year-old Carson City man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of a two-year-old girl in March 2017.

Eric Buhl's plea came at an arraignment before Carson City District Judge James Wilson and came as no surprise. We did, however, learn more about the injuries to the little girl and Buhl's explanation of what happened to her.

His original story came Friday. March 17, when paramedics and Carson City Sheriff's deputies were called to a north Carson home.

They found Eric Buhl giving CPR to two-year-old Coahuyana Hernandez. He said she had fallen.

As it turned out that was just the first version of the events of that night.
A search of the home found a pipe bomb, and so he was held on those charges while the medical examiner completed the autopsy.

When the hard evidence came in, the charge became first-degree murder and with it, news that shocked Buhl. With a victim that young--he faced the possibility of the death penalty.

"This is insane," he said at his initial arraignment.

"Just be quiet," Judge John Tatro advised. "You might want to talk with your attorney before you make any statement."

Eventually, a plea bargain was negotiated, the death penalty taken off the table in exchange for a guilty plea.

That done, Buhl was asked by Judge James Wilson what had happened that night and we got another version and a glimpse at what might have been his defense had there been a trial.

It began, he said, when trying to correct her from dangerous behavior, He hit her in the stomach to make her stop and she began choking.

"So I kind of panicked and I tried doing the Heimlich maneuver. I tried to do CPR and it wouldn't work. I was just panicking, pounding on her chest."

Later he said she revived and started screaming and he admitted he slapped her face to make her stop, but excessive force administering CPR, his attorney said, was the cause of her death.

Prosecutor Kristin Luis said the little girl's injuries-- lacerated heart, liver, pancreas among them--had a different cause.

"They were not the result of improper CPR. They were not the result of a fall. They were not the result of an accident. These are injuries that were inflicted on the victim through a significant force, something similar to what would happen in a serious car accident."

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 17. Buhl faces life without parole, life with parole, or a 50-year sentence with parole possible after 20 years.

Click for earlier stories about this case.