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CROWN POINT — The boyfriend of a woman charged with murder in her foster daughter's death said Thursday his girlfriend was innocent.

Fred Grant, 40, was named as a defendant in a civil complaint Wednesday with his longtime girlfriend Jamilia Hodge alleging the couple were negligent in caring for Emma Salinas. The lawsuit was filed by Emma's mother, Angela Salinas.

The 1-year-old girl was found dead the morning of May 4, 2017, in a crib at the couple's residence in the 7500 block of Ash Avenue. Police allege Hodge admitted during questioning she suffocated the child by placing her hand over the girl's mouth to stop her from crying.

Hodge, 33, is charged in Lake Criminal Court with murder, aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent, among other felony charges, in the girl's death. She has pleaded not guilty.

Grant said he believed the confession was falsified or made under duress. He said Hodge, a soft-spoken certified nurse aide with no criminal record, was interrogated for several hours over two days while in police custody.

“Jamilia ain't gonna bust a grape in a food fight,” Grant said. “She wouldn't break a bottle in a vacant lot.”

Grant said he and Hodge tried to conceive a child for 11 years. When their daughter was born in 2015, it was a miracle, but the couple wanted her to have brothers and sisters, so they began foster parenting.

Grant said about midnight between May 3 and May 4 he arrived home from the gym with his brother. He said Hodge was asleep and Emma was crying in her crib in a separate room. He said he spoke briefly with Hodge and put Emma to bed. Grant said he spoke with a friend on the telephone and took a shower before going to sleep.

In the morning, Hodge woke up and got their three other foster children ready for school, according to Grant. He said Emma, usually a boisterous child, was quiet in her room. They assumed she was still asleep.

Grant said he left for physical therapy and asked his brother to watch Emma. When he and Hodge returned from therapy, they discovered Emma dead in her crib.

Grant said he believed police were targeting Hodge because of his own history with law enforcement. Grant was previously charged with murder in the Dec. 23, 2005, shooting of Darius Joshua. The case was dismissed in February 2006. Grant also had drug charges dismissed in 2002.

“They don't like me,” he said. “That's the bottom line.”

Hodge is scheduled for trial Jan. 14.

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Lake County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Steve covers Lake County courts and social justice issues for The Times. The UW-Milwaukee graduate joined The Times in 2016 after reporting on criminal justice in New Mexico and Wisconsin.