OSKALOOSA, Iowa -- Friends of 21-year-old Johnny Dale Jr. said they were shocked when they learned he was charged with first-degree murder for killing his girlfriend's baby.
Joseph Spangeburg grew up down the street from Dale and knew him and his family well.
"It's hard to believe, very hard to believe," Spangeburg said. "He cared for a lot of people, he just never seemed that way, especially with what happened."
He said Dale never struck him as someone who was capable of violence.
"I don`t know, I just never pictured him to be that kind of way," he said.
Dale was charged with first-degree murder after a baby he admitted to injuring passed away Friday morning.
Oskaloosa police said Dale was watching his girlfriend's baby, 4-month-old Kane Bruns, while she was working overnight. He told authorities he got frustrated when trying to put the baby to sleep and threw him on an air mattress.
Authorities said the mother came home to find her baby unresponsive, with a bruised forehead and pale skin. When he arrived at the hospital, Kane’s brain was bleeding and his spinal cord was severely damaged.
Spangeburg said he saw the couple and met the baby about a month ago, but everything seemed fine.
"He called him his son, he always had pictures up with him, just seemed like he was stepping in. So when I heard the news I was just totally shocked, it didn't add up," Spangeburg said.
Meaghan Meinders, who briefly dated Dale when they were teenagers, said she wasn't completely surprised.
"I was shocked, honestly. I couldn't believe that he did it but then after thinking about how he was toward me and other women, it didn't surprise me because of his aggression toward women," said Meinders.
Channel 13 reached out to the baby's mother, but she wasn't ready to talk.
Spangeburg said he wished Dale would have asked someone for help with the baby.
"I just wish I knew what he was thinking during that time," he said. "I don't know, maybe he just had a rough day at work or something, I don`t know."
The baby's mom set up a GoFundMe in her son's name and is asking for help with medical expenses and support. You can donate here.