Trial underway for Kent County man accused of fatally beating four-year-old boy

Defense points finger at 10-year-old sibling in child abuse murder case

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Trial got underway in Kent County Circuit Court on Tuesday for a man accused of fatally beating a 4-year-old boy who was left in his care after the child’s mother left for work.

Elis Nelson Ortiz-Nieves, 25, is charged with felony murder and first-degree child abuse in the June 13 death of Giovanni Mejias.

“Little Giovanni suffered in a way that no child should. He was literally beaten to death,’’ Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Laura A. Clifton told jurors in opening statements. “Something isn’t right. This kid is four years old, he’s in full cardiac arrest and he’s bruised from head to toe.’’

Kent County deputies were called to a Gaines Township house trailer where Ortiz-Nieves was left to care for several children under the age of 11, including Mejias.

Deputies found the boy “actively dying on the kitchen floor,’’ Clifton told jurors.

An autopsy showed he died from internal bleeding caused by an abdominal tear. It was an injury that would have been caused by an adult, not a child, she told jurors.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Kortes called the boy’s death a “terrible tragedy,’’ but said his client is innocent.

Police focused only on Ortiz-Nieves, and did not look at others in the home, including the victim’s 10-year-old brother, Kortes said.

“There was another person in that house that could have caused those injuries. His brother,’’ Kortes said. “Nelson loved Giovanni. What Nelson is being accused of just doesn’t make sense.’’

A nearly two-inch tear in the mesentery, which attaches the stomach, small intestine and other organs to the posterior wall of the abdomen, caused the boy to bleed to death, according to an autopsy.

The autopsy revealed Mejias had injuries to the top of his head, lower back and buttocks and two broken ribs that were in the process of healing.

The boy was pronounced dead several hours after he was found unresponsive on the kitchen floor. Ortiz-Nieves was dating the boy’s mother and had been staying there since about February.

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