Woman accused of causing toddler’s death appears in court
Ellen Tran charged with second-degree reckless homicide
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A 28-year-old Rhinelander-area woman accused of causing the death of her 20-month-old stepson made her initial appearance Tuesday afternoon in Oneida County Circuit Court before Judge Patrick F. O’Melia.
Ellen L. Tran – who is free on a $50,000 cash bond with the conditions she not leave the state and comply with all other court orders, including those related to children in need of protection or services – has been charged with a felony count of second-degree reckless homicide.
If convicted, Tran could face a maximum possible penalty of 15 years of initial confinement in prison, followed by 10 years of extended supervision, and/or a $100,000 fine.
Tran is scheduled back in court May 25 for a preliminary or motion hearing. Her attorney based in the Milwaukee area, Amy C. Scholz, indicated in court Tuesday she plans to challenge whether there is a basis for probable cause with the felony charge her client faces.
The circumstances surrounding Tran being charged for the alleged crime relate to a 911 call the county’s dispatch center received at 6:24 p.m. Friday when it was reported a child had trouble breathing at a residence in the town of Newbold.
The child, who has been identified as 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.
According to a sheriff’s department report put together by captain Terri Hook, the preliminary findings of an autopsy performed Monday by Dr. Doug Kelley of the Fond du Lac County Medical Examiner’s Office were the boy died of blunt force trauma to the head.
The sheriff’s department report further states Tran had been the only adult present when the alleged incident happened and she had been caring for the boy, as well as a nine-year-old son and a 15-month-old daughter. When shown photos of the forehead of Avery Edwards and asked how the marks on his head occurred, Tran said the boy did not look like that when he left the house and had fallen in the shower.
When asked how the boy fell in the shower, however, Tran said she could not remember how the fall happened, according to the sheriff’s department report, which also stated a doctor at the Child Abuse Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Kristen Iniguez, contacted Hook on Saturday related to concern about the boy’s injuries not matching the information Tran provided.
RESTRAINING ORDER LIFTED
The mother of Avery Edwards, Lori E. Edwards, who lives in Virginia, previously had custody of the boy before the father, Trung T. Tran, had picked him up April 1 and brought him back to Wisconsin, according to the sheriff’s department report, which also states 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 recently dropped with an appeal of the decision set for April 20 in Virginia.
Robertson said the restraining order related to bruising found on Avery Edwards when he had been returned during the last visitation approximately 10 months ago and Ellen Tran had been the primary caregiver. Trung Tran stated he had not seen Avery Edwards for 10 months until just recently being able to have visitation with him.
Trung Tran said Avery Edwards “had not been bonding well with Ellen” since the boy had been with them and was not sure why she would have given him a shower because he had given him a bath earlier and the boy did not like running water and usually had difficulty in the shower.
Trung Tran had also asked Hook if he was going to be arrested for the boy’s death “because I didn’t protect him,” according to the sheriff’s department report, which also noted Lori Edwards said she believed Trung Tran had something to do with the boy’s death, though Trung Tran was not home at the time of the alleged incident.
TRI-COUNTY COURT PRESENCE
Individuals associated with the Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault appeared in the courtroom wearing blue shirts and white ribbons as a show of support for Avery Edwards.
“It’s rare to have a homicide (in Oneida County), let alone a child, a baby homicide, and the fact that it is in April in Child Abuse Awareness Month was very upsetting to us,” said the council’s executive director, Shellie Holmes.
Holmes said council members plan to attend subsequent court proceedings as the case continues and are also planning a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the boy at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the green space area by Trig’s in Rhinelander.