Mom’s boyfriend charged with murder of girl, 5

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VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — A 5-year-old girl died and her mother’s 37-year-old boyfriend was arrested for murder Friday night in Vancouver.

An undated photo of Ryan Mason Burge. (Courtesy photo) 

Ryan Mason Burge was booked into the Clark County Jail on charges of murder and assault of a child.

The case began when Vancouver police were called to the Madison Park Apartments, 12901 NE 28th Street, around 5 p.m. Friday. Burge initially told police the girl hurt herself while having a tantrum.

Authorities said the girl was unconscious and had severe head trauma when emergency responders first arrived. She was rushed to PeaceHealth Medical Center and then transferred to Randall Children’s Hospital. But she was pronounced dead shortly after she arrived.

Burge was arrested. His first court appearance is slated for 9 a.m. Monday.

Undated photos of Hartley, who was 5 when she died November 2, 2018. Her mother's boyfriend, Ryan Burge, was arrested and charged with murder. (Courtesy: Hartley's family)

In 2008, Burge was arrested for arson but the case was dismissed in Cowlitz County. Back in 2002, he pleaded guilty to malicious mischief in Cowlitz County.

‘Can’t fathom hurting such a sweet girl’

Family members told KOIN 6 News Hartley turned 5 just 2 weeks ago. They’re in shock dealing with the tragic death of the girl who was such a bright light in the lives.

Hartley’s uncle and aunt, TJ and Whitney Luchau, said one of her favorite things to do was to lavish their dogs with love.

“She tries to wrap my dog in blankets because she thinks they are cold,” Whitney said. “She’s genuinely a sincere, caring kid.”

It was that sweet nature that makes her death even more unthinkable, she said. Hartley’s mom, Natasha, was at work when she was hurt. She came home, found Hartley unconscious and called 911.

“I just can’t imagine being alone and Life Flighted without any family,” Whitney said. “She was probably so scared.”

TJ said he “can’t fathom what would cause somebody to hurt such a sweet little girl like that and to take her away from everybody.”

Hartley’s mom and older brothers are too grief-stricken to return to their apartment, Whitney said. The family created a GoFundMe page to help Natasha and her boys move and to pay for Hartley’s funeral expenses.

“The thing she probably loved the most besides her mom (was) her 2 brothers and the bond that they had,” Whitney said. “It was special.”

“They’re going through worse than us,” TJ said. “Everybody’s hurting but it’s twice as hard for them.”

But the outpouring of support from the community has been a blessing during this tragedy, Whitney said. 

“It just means so much. It really does,” she said, crying. “It means a lot.”

Undated photos of Hartley, who was 5 when she died November 2, 2018. Her mother's boyfriend, Ryan Burge, was arrested and charged with murder. (Courtesy: Hartley's family)

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