Crime & Courts

Wichita toddler who died Sunday was ‘a light in all of our lives,’ grandma says

The grandmother of a Wichita toddler found bruised and lifeless Sunday in the house where he lived with his mother and her boyfriend described the boy in Facebook messages as “a light in all of our lives.”

Jacob Aviles was a pretty typical 2-year-old: Fun-loving, happy and a “joyful soul” who enjoyed playing with relatives and watching movies, Adelis Aviles said.

“God... he was so full of Energy unlike anyone you’ve ever met. Was gorgeous inside and out,” she wrote in Facebook messages to an Eagle reporter.

“His smile would wake u up and would be the last thing you saw at night.”

Jacob died Sunday at the southwest Wichita home where he lived with his mother, older siblings and his mother’s boyfriend. Exactly what killed the boy remains unclear pending an autopsy.

But in a news conference Monday, Wichita police Capt. Brent Allred said the boy was found unresponsive with bruises covering most of his body. The injuries led officers to arrest Jacob’s mother, 24-year-old Stephanie Aviles, on suspicion of aggravated child endangerment and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Bernardo Gonzalez-Mejia, on suspicion of child abuse.

Police have said Jacob’s mother left her son with Gonzalez-Mejia on Sunday morning while she ran errands with another child.

At some point, Gonzalez-Mejia called her and told her that the toddler was not breathing, police have said. Jacob was pronounced dead at 11:27 a.m. Sunday.

Neither the mother nor her boyfriend had been formally charged with any crime as of Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking in Spanish through an interpreter, Jacob’s father, Norman Rosario-Flores, told The Eagle on Tuesday that he “wants to see justice” for his son.

Jacob is the third Wichita child to die this year under suspicious circumstances.

Jacob’s grandmother didn’t want to talk about whether she’d seen any injuries or anything unusual with the boy before his death —asking instead that her conversation with the Eagle reporter “stay on (the) topic of Jacob.”

But she did say that her daughter, Stephanie Aviles, had moved in with Gonzalez-Mejia a few months ago and that she’d met him a handful of times “but never had any” concerns. Police on Monday said they weren’t aware of any abuse or neglect reports involving the family.

Before the move, Adelis Aviles said she saw or visited with Jacob nearly every other day. That tapered off some, though, when he, his mom and his 6-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister started living in Gonzalez-Mejia’s one-story house at 1126 W. Munnell.

The last time she talked with her grandson — on Saturday over a video chat — Jacob “was so happy to see our faces,” she wrote.

That’s how she plans to remember him.

“his smile when he got on the phone Will forever be the face i will see in my dreams,” she wrote.

The family is raising money to help pay for Jacob’s funeral costs. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/f/jacob-aviles.

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.
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