Jamie Taylor/River News
Ellen Tran, left, leaves Judge Patrick O’Melia’s courtroom behind her attorney Amy Scholz Tuesday after being charged with second-degree reckless homicide in connection with the death of her 20-month-old stepson Avery J. Edwards.
Jamie Taylor/River News
Representatives of the Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault attended Tran’s court hearing wearing blue shirts in recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Vigil for Baby Avery
The Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence will host a candlelight vigil in memory of Avery Edwards at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21 at the Trig's greenspace in Rhinelander.
4/20/2017 7:30:00 AM Stepmother charged with second-degree reckless homicide in death of toddler Complaint: Pathologist lists cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head
By Jamie Taylor and Heather Schaefer of the River News Staff
A 28-year-old Rhinelander woman was formally charged Tuesday with second-degree reckless homicide in connection with the death of her 20-month-old stepson.
According to a press release issued by Oneida County chief deputy Dan Hess just before 1 p.m. Monday, the department received a 9-1-1 call at approximately 6:24 p.m. Friday reporting a 20-month-old boy was breathing very shallowly.
Deputies and medics responded the scene and transported the child to St. Mary's Hospital.
He was then flown to St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield where he passed away a short time later.
The sheriff's office has identified the child as Avery J. Edwards.
At approximately 4:15 p.m. Monday, the department announced Ellen L. Tran, 28, of Rhinelander had been arrested on suspicion of second-degree reckless homicide in connection with the boy's death.
Tran made her initial appearance in Oneida County Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon at which time she was formally charged with second-degree reckless homicide, a Class D felony which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, a forensic pathologist has listed the child's cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head. The complaint also refers to a "bleed" in the child's brain and includes a statement from a doctor at St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield attesting that the child's injuries do not match the information supplied by his stepmother.
The complaint states the investigation began with a hang-up phone call from the Tran residence in Newbold on Friday evening. When the dispatcher called back, Ellen Tran reported that her stepson had not been acting right since she got him out of the bath. She was directed to perform CPR on the child and medics were dispatched to the scene.
According to the complaint, Tran told authorities the boy fell in the shower. However, the boy's father, Dr. Trung T. Tran, told investigators he didn't know why his wife would have bathed the child as he had bathed him earlier in the day. He also noted the boy did not like running water and reported the boy and his wife were "not bonding well" and the boy always wanted to be with him when he was home.
According to the complaint, Dr. Tran told investigators he left for work between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. and learned that his son was at the hospital when he got to work. He told police the child hadn't been eating well since the visit began on April 1 and had a respiratory infection. Trung also said (the boy) "was clumsy and had some bruising on his legs."
After his son's death, Dr. Tran asked investigators if they were going to arrest him for failing to protect the child, the complaint also states.
In her interview with investigators, Ellen Tran said she could not remember how the child fell in the shower but knew that he had. She also said she was caring for her nine-year-old and 15-month-old children, as well as her stepson, at the time.
In an interview with law enforcement, the boy's mother advised that "she knew this was going to happen" and accused Dr. Tran of having something to do with the death, the complaint states.
The mother's child custody attorney contacted investigators to report that there had been a temporary restraining order (TRO) placed against Ellen Tran preventing her from having contact with the boy. The attorney said the TRO had recently been lifted but an appeal of that decision was set to be heard April 20 in Virginia, the complaint states.
The attorney said the TRO was sought after bruising was found on the boy after he was returned from his last visit with his father and Ellen Tran had been the primary caregiver during that visit.
According to the complaint, it had been approximately 10 months since Dr. Tran had visitation with his son.
In court Tuesday, defense attorney Amy Scholz requested a hearing on a motion to dismiss the complaint on grounds of insuffiency. Judge Patrick O'Melia set a preliminary hearing for 1:30 p.m. May 25 and advised he will hear the motion to dismiss at that time.
Tran is free on $50,000 cash bail. As conditions of bond, she is not allowed to leave the state and must comply with all other court orders, including family court directives.
A vigil is planned for 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21 at the Trig's green space in Rhinelander in memory of Avery Edwards, according to Shellie Holmes, executive director of the Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Holmes and other representatives from the organization attended the hearing wearing blue shirts in recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month.
"We are here because it's Child Abuse Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month and with this alleged child homicide we are here to support the innocent victim," she said. "It's rare to have a homicide (in Oneida County) let alone to have a child, a baby, homicide and the fact that it is in April, in Child Abuse Awareness Month, was very upsetting to us, of course. We are all very deeply committed to our work and we are constantly thinking about victims and what they may be going through and what abuse they may be suffering and when there is an incident like this it's our duty, our responsiblity, to support the victims and raise awareness in the community that we all need to be aware of this."
Holmes said her organization had already planned an event for Friday, Safe Families Safe Kids, in partnership with the group Bikers Against Child Abuse. That event will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. and will include games and food. The vigil will begin immediately after.
Holmes said Tri-County will follow the case to its conclusion.
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