Uncle, father charged in 5-month-old’s death

Joseph Nguyen and Viet Nguyen appear in court on Dec. 30, 2015.


WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A father and his brother were charged Wednesday in the death of a 5-month-old boy who was allegedly covered with blankets and pillows to keep him quiet, police and prosecutors said.

The brother, Joseph Nguyen, 20, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Dec. 26 death of his nephew, Isaiah Nguyen.

Isaiah’s father, Viet Nguyen, 21, is charged with lying to police about the death.

Both were arraigned Wednesday morning in Wyoming District Court. They could face up to four years in prison if convicted.

A family spokesman who was in the apartment when the child died told 24 Hour News 8 the family is devastated — by the death and the charges.

“We don’t know how they’re investigating,” said Jalen Hubbert, the baby’s godfather and the father’s long-time friend. “It seems more like they want to rush and force a confession out of something that there’s no answer to, not letting us know what happened to the child.”

Kent County Chief Assistant Chris Becker said the death was a case of gross negligence, not unsafe sleep.

“This is a bad one,” he said. “This is not a normal case that you normally see. What we saw when we reviewed it is an ordinary person definitely would have known a child would have been hurt or even killed because of the actions, and that’s what we’re talking about rising to the level of gross negligence.”

“I don’t want people out there in the public to say, ‘Geez, I’m going to put my kid to bed with a blanket and we’re going to get charged if something happens.’ This is not the case, this is much different, this is much more serious, this is much more than carelessness.”

Police said the baby’s uncle found Isaiah unresponsive in his crib at Parkcrest Apartments, located at 1987 Parkcrest SW in Wyoming, where they were staying.

He and the baby’s father rushed him to Metro Health Hospital, directly across the street, but Isaiah was already gone, police said.

The father at first told police the baby was sleeping with him when it happened, according to court documents.

But they say they later learned Isaiah was in a crib and that Joseph admitted trying to quiet the baby by covering him with three blankets and two pillows, and left him like that for an hour and a half.

Authorities said Joseph Nguyen was recently a junior at the University of Michigan and that “no reasonable person could think a 5-month-old baby could survive the condition” in which he was put, court documents show.

Hubbert, the family friend, said it was awful enough that his best friend lost his only child.

“He changed so many people in the short amount of time that he was here,” Hubbert said of the baby. “I’ve never seen my best friend break down. I don’t know how to put it. I just know there’s never been a more twisted situation.”

The baby’s mom and dad are not together, and the mom had dropped the boy off that night.

Hubbert said it happened in his apartment while he slept. He said he didn’t know the brothers had rushed the baby to the hospital until police showed up later that morning.

He said it’s understandable why the father at first told police a different story.

“Somebody would say, ‘The baby was laying with me,’ because you just lose your son, you’re not going to lose your brother, too,” Hubbert said.

Hubbert said both the dad and uncle were overwhelmed by grief when detectives interviewed them.

“They’re charging Joseph, a kid who graduated from high school with a 4.0, who’s now in (University of) Michigan on his way to becoming a doctor with excellent grades, who came back for the holidays and was playing a game on his laptop, and went to check on the baby.”

The family said it wants to see an autopsy report.

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