Father facing felony charges for son’s death
Trung Tran accused of child neglect resulting in death, failing to prevent bodily harm
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A 40-year-old Rhinelander-area man whose wife is accused of first-degree reckless homicide for the death of his 20-month-old son back in April now faces felony charges himself.
Trung T. Tran made his initial appearance Wednesday in the Oneida County Circuit Court Branch II courtroom via video conference from the county jail on charges of child neglect resulting in death and failure to act to prevent bodily harm to a child. Upon conviction, those charges carry a combined maximum possible penalty of 22 ½ years of initial confinement in prison, followed by 15 years of extended supervision, and/or fines totaling $125,000.
Judge Michael H. Bloom set Tran’s bond at $10,000 cash with the conditions he surrender his passport, if he has one, to the clerk of court and advise the sheriff’s office prior to leaving the state, as well as provide the clerk of court with his address if he plans to leave the state. Tran is scheduled back in court Oct. 24 for a preliminary hearing.
Tran’s wife, Ellen L. Tran, 28, who was in the courtroom for Wednesday’s initial appearance, previously was charged with first-degree reckless homicide and a separate felony bail jumping charge in connection with the death of Trung Tran’s son and her stepson, Avery J. Edwards. The first-degree reckless homicide charge, for which she has pleaded not guilty, carries a maximum possible penalty of 40 years of initial confinement in prison, followed by 20 years of extended supervision.
Ellen Tran, who is free on bond, is scheduled back in court Oct. 17 for a pretrial conference.
The circumstances surrounding Trung and Ellen Tran being charged relate to an incident called into the county’s dispatch center the evening of April 14 when it was reported a child had trouble breathing at a residence in the town of Newbold.
The child, Avery J. Edwards, was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander, where he was then flown out to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield and passed away a short time later.
Dr. Doug Kelley of the Fond du Lac County Medical Examiner’s Office, who performed the autopsy on the boy, determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head.
Ellen Tran has been accused of giving authorities varying accounts about what happened to the boy and had been the only adult present when the alleged incident happened. She had been caring for him, as well as a nine-year-old son and a 15-month-old daughter.
After Ellen Tran stated the boy fell in the shower, she said she could not remember how the fall happened, according to an sheriff’s office report, which also noted a doctor at the Child Abuse Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Kristen Iniguez, contacted sheriff’s office captain Terri Hook on April 15 related to concern about the boy’s injuries not matching the information Ellen Tran provided.
Though Ellen Tran was first arrested for the boys’ death back in April, Trung Tran, who has worked as a physician at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander, wasn’t arrested until Tuesday. Back in April, Trung Tran had allegedly asked if he would be arrested for failing to protect Avery Edwards and expressed concern about the boy being Ellen Tran’s care.
According to a sheriff’s office report put together by detective sergeant Chad Wanta, data located on electronic devices had been obtained as part of an investigation that allegedly showed “Trung was aware of Ellen’s hostility toward (Avery Edwards) and that Ellen had issues with drugs, alcohol and depression; however, Trung allowed Ellen to care for (the boy).”
The report also states it appeared Trung Tran was only trying to obtain custody of Avery Edwards from the boy’s biological mother, Lori E. Edwards, who lives in Virginia, to avoid paying child support.
“Information showed Trung despised Lori and he stated in a text message that getting custody of (the boy) would cause Lori to ‘melt down and die,’” the report states. “The investigation also revealed that Trung told Ellen he wanted (Avery Edwards) dead. As the investigation progressed, many things were discovered to demonstrate Trung neglected and failed to protect (the boy).”
According to court records, Lori Edwards previously had custody of the boy before Trung Tran had picked him up April 1 and brought him back to Wisconsin.
Court records also state the child custody lawyer for Lori Edwards, Claudette Robertson, informed Hook there had been a temporary restraining order against Ellen Tran to keep her from having contact with Avery Edwards before the order was dropped. An appeal seeking to reinstate the order had been set for April 20 in Virginia.
In requesting charges against Trung Tran, the report prepared by Wanta concludes, “Had Trung not left (Avery Edwards) in Ellen’s care, (the boy) may still be alive.”
“Trung was aware that leaving (Avery Edwards) with Ellen was a risk to (the boy’s) welfare,” the report states. “Trung had other options available, such as hiring childcare, but chose to leave (the boy) in Ellen’s care, knowing how Ellen felt about (the boy), knowing Ellen was overwhelmed caring for (the boy) in the past, knowing Ellen had substance abuse and stability issues and knowing Ellen had put (two other children) in danger.
“Trung knew Ellen was previously accused of abusing (the boy) and a temporary restraining order had been issued against her. Trung was the only person that could protect (the boy) from Ellen and was responsible for (the boy’s) safety.”
Trung Tran’s attorney, D. Michael Guerin, had sought a closed hearing Wednesday and to seal the court record as it relates to juveniles. Though Bloom denied the motion to seal the court complaint, he ordered the full names of the children listed to be redacted and identified only by their initials and dates of birth.