Scuffle in court; judge calls convicted killer of boy ‘evil’

Elis Nelson Ortiz-Nieves
Elis Nelson Ortiz-Nieves struggles with courtroom officers during his sentencing Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A judge’s stern words for a Gaines Township man convicted of murdering his girlfriend’s 4-year-old son were cut short Thursday, when the suspect got into a courtroom scuffle.

Judge Mark Trusock was recounting testimony about the abuse leading up to the death of 4-year-old Giovanni Mejias when it happened.

Trusock said what Elis Nelson Ortiz-Nieves, 25, did to the boy was gruesome, including seven blows to the head and putting out cigarettes on his body. The judge was describing belt-buckle shaped bruises on the boy when Ortiz-Nieves interrupted.

“I ain’t going to let you- I ain’t going to let you say those crazy (expletive) about me, man. No man, because he don’t even know, man,” Ortiz-Nieves said, turning to a courtroom officer.

When the judge continued describing the abuse, Ortiz-Nieves began struggling with officers. Shouts and crying could be heard coming from two female supporters of Ortiz-Nieves as he was led out of the courtroom.

“Anyone says anything back there, arrest them,” Trusock ordered bailiffs.

Shortly after the scuffle, Ortiz-Nieves was led back into the room.

Ortiz-Nieves was arrested in June after Giovanni was found unresponsive at a Gaines Township mobile home. Ortiz-Nieves was watching seven children at the time. First responders revived the boy and took him to the hospital, where he died.

The medical examiner determined Giovanni died from blunt force trauma to his abdomen, but also found older injuries on the boy.

A jury found Ortiz-Nieves guilty of felony murder and first-degree child abuse last month.

Giovanni would have turned 5 Wednesday.

“Instead of celebrating, we took balloons to his gravesite,” his grandmother, Laura Villarreal-Muler, said in court. “What Nelson decided to do to my baby will never bring him back.

“I’ll never see him grow up, fall in love or go to school,” she added.

Ortiz-Nieves previously told detectives that after he found the boy stiff and unresponsive, he kept pouring water into his mouth. He also allegedly told detectives he was jabbing Giovanni in the stomach in an effort to get him to vomit. On Thursday, he maintained his innocence.

“I’m going to continue to say that I will take a lie detector test to prove I never abused any of (the) kids or never abused Giovanni and never intentionally meant to hurt Giovanni, but to help him,” he told the court.

Kent County Circuit Court Judge Mark Trusock wasn’t having it.

“You can claim your innocence, but I sat over this trial and carefully listened to all of the testimony and the jury verdict was clearly correct in this matter. There is no question whatsoever that you committed this murder and you beat this little boy to death,” Trusock said.

“There is no question in my mind that you did this,” he continued. “You are the lowest form of human life that I have been able to observe or see. You are a monster and quite frankly, you are evil. What you did was sickening and disgusting.”

He sentenced Ortiz-Nieves to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

–24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.