< Full site
The Northwoods River News Mobile

DA files new charge against father in toddler death case

Oneida County district attorney Mike Schiek has filed a new charge against Dr. Trung T. Tran in connection with the death of his toddler son Avery J. Edwards last April.

Schiek filed an information - the legal term for the formal charging document in a criminal case - Feb. 21 charging Tran with failure to act to prevent bodily harm to a child, a class H felony, and child neglect resulting in death, a class D felony. An information is filed after a preliminary hearing and finalizes the charges to which a defendant will enter a plea.

Tran was originally charged with failure to act to prevent great bodily harm to a child, a class F felony, along with the child neglect count. However, judge Michael Bloom dismissed the "failure to act" charge Nov. 30 after Tran's attorney Michael Guerin successfully argued that there was not enough evidence in the criminal complaint to show his client was aware of any prior incidents of "great bodily harm" to Avery J. Edwards, 20 months, at the hands of his stepmother Ellen Tran, 29.

One of the elements of that charge is "the defendant knew or believed that (the person the state believes is responsible for the child's death which in this case is Ellen Tran) previously caused great bodily harm to the child.

Schiek said the new charge requires the state to prove only that Avery Edwards suffered previous "bodily harm" as opposed to "great bodily harm".

"The judge said that you have to have great bodily harm and then you have to have another great bodily harm," Schiek said. "Although we didn't agree with that, we're saying there is bodily harm now. We covered that in the prelim with the bruising on the body."

According to the criminal complaint, Edwards became unresponsive April 14 while visiting his father and stepmother in Newbold. He died April 15 at a hospital in Marshfield.

Ellen Tran is facing a charge of first-degree reckless homicide in connection with Edwards' death.

At Ellen Tran's preliminary hearing, Fond du Lac County medical examiner Doug Kelley testified the boy's cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and reviewed the areas of the child's body where he found either bruises or contusions. In addition to the boy's head, he said he found bruising on the child's back, buttocks, knees, forearms and chest. He also testified that the child had no head or rib fractures or signs of healed old fractures.

Also during Ellen Tran's preliminary hearing, Schiek told judge Patrick O'Melia that he has photos of the boy, taken by Lori Edwards before her son left Virginia for the visit with the Trans, that show no bruising or other injuries.

Edwards has alleged that Avery returned from a previous visit with the Trans with bruises not present when he left.

In the criminal complaints against both Dr. Tran and his wife, Schiek has set forth a theory that Ellen Tran caused the death of her stepson and Dr. Tran bears legal responsibility for failing to protect the boy.

When reached for comment Thursday, Schiek said the primary difference between the two charges is the new charge does not include great bodily harm, just bodily harm.

Schiek said he laid the foundation for the second count through his questioning of Oneida County Detective Sergeant Chad Wanta at Dr. Tran's preliminary hearing.

"What we did at the prelim was try to get some of that information (on the record) and you can file the information based on evidence that was produced at the preliminary hearing," Schiek said, noting that it is similar to how he incressed the charge against Ellen Tran from second-degree reckless homicide to first-degree reckless homicide after her June 23, 2017 preliminary hearing.

Dr. Tran is currently scheduled for arraignment on March 19, but Schiek expects that Guerin will file a motion to dismiss the new charge.

"They can always do that, and then we'll just have to go into court and argue again where we're coming from," Schiek said. "I would anticipate something like that coming up. But I think we're right this time."

If Guerin does file a motion to dismiss the new charge, the arguments from would most likely be lengthy and would likely take place on a different day than the arraignment, he added.

This is due to the practice of scheduling several arraignments on the same day. If the arguments ran to the hour he expects, it might put the rest of the judge's docket behind schedule, he explained.

"Usually when someone files a motion, the (judge's) judicial assistant will usually ask how long it's going to take (to argue) and they will just reschedule everything," Schiek said. "We'll just wait and see what they do and adjust from there."

If convicted of both charges, Dr. Tran faces a maximum of 31 years in prison.

Ellen Tran faces a maximum of 60 years in prison if convicted of the reckless homicide charge.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernewsonline.com.


The Northwoods River News Home

< Full site