Crime & Courts

Before toddler died, mom wondered if boyfriend hurt him ‘on purpose,’ affidavit says

In the days before her 2-year-old son died while in her boyfriend’s care, a Wichita mother started leaving her 6-year-old son at home to see if her boyfriend was hurting the toddler on purpose, according to a police affidavit released Thursday by Sedgwick County District Court.

The affidavit gives new details about Jacob Aviles’ injuries as well as a glimpse into the alleged abuse he endured leading up to his Sept. 29 death. Both his mother, 24-year-old Stephanie Aviles, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Bernardo Gonzalez-Mejia, are charged with first-degree felony murder in the case.

According to the affidavit, Stephanie Aviles told a Wichita police detective after the boy was found bruised and lifeless at Gonzalez-Mejia’s home, where they all lived, that neither she nor her boyfriend ever hit her children.

But, she said in the police interview, that each time she left Jacob alone with Gonzalez-Mejia, the toddler “would have an injury and Bernardo would explain it away to her,” according to the affidavit.

Those injuries included wounds to Jacob’s genitals that had to be treated at the hospital on two occasions.

Injuries noted at Jacob’s autopsy include several bruises to his head, back, buttocks, stomach, arms and legs; about a cup of liquid blood pooled in his abdominal cavity; internal lacerations on tissue around his intestines; and a rib fracture that was healing.

His death was ruled a homicide by blunt force trauma.

“Stephanie said she was recently leaving her 6 year old son ... (with Jacob) and Bernardo to see if Bernardo was hurting (Jacob) on purpose,” Wichita police Detective Addie Perkins wrote in the affidavit.

But the older child “never reported anything” to his mother.

The day that Jacob died, his mother left him at the house with Gonzalez-Mejia. She was going to meet a relative with her daughter, who is 5.

Jacob “was sitting at the kitchen table eating when she left and he was fine,” the affidavit says.

While she was gone, Gonzalez-Mejia called her and told her that Jacob “had fainted” and that “he had put rubbing alcohol under his (the boy’s) nose but he was not responding,” the affidavit says. Stephanie Aviles told her boyfriend she would return home.

When she was on the way, Gonzalez-Mejia called her again and said that Jacob “was turning yellow and that he saw a piece of meatball in his mouth.” Gonzalez-Mejia said he removed the food but Jacob was still not breathing.

He told her that Jacob was choking and to call 911.

When Stephanie Aviles arrived at home, first responders were there trying to revive Jacob but couldn’t.

He was pronounced dead at 11:27 a.m. Extensive bruising on Jacob’s body prompted police to arrest the couple.

When police interviewed Gonzalez-Mejia he initially denied harming Jacob, saying the toddler’s injuries were from falls, according to the affidavit.

Later, he told police that he had spanked Jacob with a belt on his diapered bottom the night before but didn’t hit him hard, the affidavit says.

He told police he hit Jacob with the belt because the boy “was not eating his food” even though he knew Jacob “was not feeling well,” the detective wrote in the affidavit. When shown photos of Jacob’s injuries, Gonzalez-Mejia acknowledged that one of the linear bruises on the boy’s buttocks could have been from a belt strike, the affidavit says.

Gonzalez-Mejia’s first-degree murder charge accuses him of killing Jacob while committing the crime of child abuse.

Stephanie Aviles’ murder charge says she was committing a crime of aggravated child endangerment when her son died. That can include leaving a child in a dangerous situation or with someone suspected of harming them.

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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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