RHINELANDER - An Oneida County jury found Ellen Tran, 30, guilty of first-degree reckless homicide after one hour, 39 minutes of deliberation on Thursday afternoon.
Tran showed no expression as she was placed in handcuffs and walked out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies. She now faces up to 60 years in prison when sentenced.
The jury started deliberating at 12:36 p.m. on Thursday. Eight men and four women reviewed four days worth of evidence in this case.
It considered whether Tran caused the death of 20-month-old Avery Edwards in April 2017 at a home near Rhinelander. Tran said her stepson slipped in the shower on the night he died. But prosecutors believe much more happened.
In his closing argument to the jury Thursday morning, Oneida County District Attorney Michael Schiek admitted he didn't know exactly what happened to Edwards the night of April 14, 2017. But he was confident Tran did it.
"Was she holding him by the legs? I don't know. Was she holding him by the arms? Throw him against the wall in the bathroom? I don't know. But all of those bruises are consistent with something like that," Schiek told the jury.
Bruises marked the body of Edwards when he died later that night.
"A 20-month-old against an adult. It's not a fair fight," Schiek said.
Tran was the only adult home when she called 911 at around 6:25 p.m. that night. During that call, Tran made no mention of Edwards slipping in the shower, the story she later told investigators. Schiek contended the narrative about a fall in the shower was simply a cover story for more serious harm Tran did.
Schiek said Tran's defense strategy was to "throw up some softballs and see what works."
Defense attorney Jonas Bednarek argued there were too many alternate possibilities to explain Edwards' death to convict Tran.
"I can't tell you exactly what happened," Bednarek said. "I wish I could, but I can't. And nobody can."
Bednarek offered influenza or a pseudoephedrine overdose as possible explanations.
He also singled out Trung Tran as a suspect.
"Is there suspicion there? Damn right. He is not a good man. We can all agree on that. He is a bad man. He's a bad father. He's a bad husband. Dammit, he was probably a bad doctor, too," Bednarek said.
Trung Tran was Edwards' father and Ellen's wife at the time. It's easy to imagine Trung Tran getting violent with Edwards, Bednarek argued. In testimony earlier Thursday, past wives and girlfriends of Trung Tran called him an abuser who skipped on child support.
Suzanne and Trung Tran were married four or five years before their divorce in 2007. They had two children together.
"I know there was once or twice that he did slap my daughter in the face," Suzanne Tran said. "I said that, you know, this was the icing on the cake. I'm going to leave."
Trung Tran then dated Candice Joiner for six years until 2012, fathering a child by her. She testified about his emotional and physical abuse to her and the child.
"He picked me up by my neck off the floor and proceeded to beat me with his hands and knees," Joiner said.
Joiner told the jury Trung Tran was uninterested in paying child support after the two split. In fact, she said, Trung Tran terminated the parental rights to his son instead of paying child support.
Ellen Tran's defense team portrayed Trung Tran as willing to do almost anything to avoid paying child support for Edwards, his son. Lawyers implied he might go so far as to inflict deadly injuries.
Ellen Tran chose not to testify in her own defense.
Early in its deliberation, the jury asked to review a report by a Marshfield Clinic doctor who inspected Edwards' body after death.
(Suspects identified clockwise, beginning with upper-left: Robert Daniels, Andrew Phillips, Richard Harris, Geraldine Dubray, Allyssa Wamego, Tammy Mann)
A report of a noisy house party and fight near Crandon led to six drug-related arrests earlier this month. Officers eventually found heroin, cocaine, and guns along with other drug items inside, but getting there took some extra work.
According to a release from the Forest County Sheriff's Office, police responded to a home at 7840 Love Knot Lane in the Town of Lincoln, which is east of Crandon, on March 7 around 7:15 p.m.
RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander man could face prison time after police arrested him in an online underage sex sting. Oneida County prosecutors charged Adam Van Roy with three felonies on Monday.
A Wisconsin Department of Justice Special Agent working with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office posed as a 19-year-old woman named 'Julia G' on several social media applications March 13-15. Van Roy, 36, started talking with 'Julia' during that time.
'Julia' soon told Van Roy she was actually only 15 years old.
The agent's notes show Van Roy asked 'Julia' for pictures, including nude images, and asked her "what do you like in the bedroom?"
CRANDON - Recently, flooding closed roads and frustrated communities from Rhinelander to Plover. A bad combination of rain and melting snow led to days of flood warnings. As those warnings go away, a related risk could do a lot more than frustrate you - it could make you sick. Flooding can cause contamination in wells, but the Northwoods is lucky to have a world-class water testing facility.
RT Krueger's Northern Lake Service in Crandon has about 50 specialized machines that test drinking water for half of the municipalities in Wisconsin. Krueger tests Rhinelander's water three times a week. Every year 65,000 water samples flow in and out of this lab.
"The safe drinking water testing for the city of Madison is being performed up in little tiny Crandon," said Krueger.
Many people have their own wells, which are not tested regularly like municipal water. If your well is submerged due to flooding, filtered groundwater mixes with potentially harmful surface water.
"You're introducing the bacteria and all the compounds and organisms that are normally above the water that you're drawing," said Krueger.
MILWAUKEE - Officials say a man shot by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee police on campus is hospitalized in stable condition.
University Police Chief Joe LeMire said at a news conference Tuesday two officers found the man, armed with a gun, sleeping on a bench in the Fine Arts Complex building around 7 a.m., an altercation occurred and he was shot. The police officers were treated for minor injuries.
We talk to a snowplow driver in Lincoln County who says he was attacked with a baseball bat after accidently knocking down a mailbox.
We'll take you to the ribbon cutting for a new utility garage in Stevens Point and show you some sustainable design features that are part of the facility including the largest solar array in Central Wisconsin.
And we'll speak with a water testing specialist in Crandon to go over the importance of testing groundwater especially after there has been flooding in the area.
We'll bring you this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.
MERRILL - The Merrill Area Public School District will need to replace its school board's vice president.
Eric Geiss emailed his resignation to Board President Kevin Blake, announcing he would step down immediately. Geiss cited personal reasons for his decision.
"I regret any inconvenience that my resignation may cause," Geiss said in his email, which was relayed to Newswatch 12 through the MAPS Administrative Office. "I have enjoyed the experience and am honored to have worked with you in service of the students and the district, helping transform the board's reputation and community relationships. I do believe we have done very good things for our kids, the future of the district and the community."
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