GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The man charged with abusing to death his girlfriend’s son broke down in tears as he learned he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Elis Nelson Ortiz-Nieves was arraigned Thursday afternoon in 63rd District Court on murder, first-degree child abuse and being a habitual offender charges in connection to the death of 4-year-old Giovanni Mejias. He is being held in the Kent County Correctional Facility without bond.
The probable cause affidavit states that Ortiz-Nieves admitted to police that he dragged the 4-year-old boy from his bed to a shower and then said he used his hand to press on the child’s bloated stomach to “relieve pressure.”
But autopsy results determined Giovanni died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen and ruled out the possibility of accidental injury. Several older injuries in various stages of healing were found during the autopsy.
Ortiz-Nieves seemed stunned and confounded as Judge Sara Smolenski detailed the accusations against him.
Tuesday, police were called to the mobile home near Kentwood where the boy was found. Emergency responders were able to revive the boy, but he soon died at the hospital.
Ortiz-Nieves admitted he was watching seven kids, three his own, at the time of the incident.
The charge of felony murder means that police believe that the boy was killed while being abused by the defendant.
His adult record includes drugs and gun charges, but he has a juvenile record that goes back 13 years, when he was a preteen.
He would also have charges of car theft, shoplifting, assault with a weapon and receiving and concealing stolen goods.
At the age of 16 in 2009, court records show he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge involving domestic violence. He was also accused of assaulting the infant boy, but that charge was dismissed as part of a plea agreement that sent him to the Muskegon River Youth Home for three months.
At the mobile home near Kentwood where Giovanni died, there were numerous stops by Kent County investigators and Child Protective Services. But nothing rose to the level where courts would step in and remove the children.
Ortiz-Nieves was in a relationship Giovanni’s mother and they had been living together for about six months, according to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.
While the easy answer is to point the finger at CPS, often the people reporting were unwilling to substantiate their claims. Some say they feared that there were gang ties to the home, namely the Latin Kings. Others making reports had their own history with police making them hesitant to be involved.
The end result is Giovanni remained at that home until his death, six months shy of his fifth birthday.