FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It isn’t the justice the family wanted, but it’s better than nothing.
Trevon Bishop, 25, pleaded guilty to neglecting his 1-year-old son on Oct. 22, 2020, the day the toddler died. His plea deal secured last week indicates he has accepted a 5-year sentence, with one year suspended that will be served on probation.
Police were called to an apartment in the 4300 block of Joshua Lane around 1:30 p.m. that day. Elias Paez, the toddler, was pronounced dead less than 20 minutes later, even though police and medics tried everything to resuscitate him.
Although the family was hoping for a more serious charge than a Level 5 felony which carries a sentence between one and six years, they are resigned to it and are awaiting sentencing scheduled for Aug. 30 at 8:30 a.m.
Court documents indicate he will address a probation violation on a gun charge at the same hearing in front of Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull. Prior to the death of Elias, Bishop caught a felony 5 for being a felon carrying a handgun. Because he violated probation he is being held without bond at the Allen County Jail. His bond on the neglect charge is $10,000, according to a jail spokesman.
The Allen County Prosecutor’s Office issued a warrant for Bishop’s arrest on April 8, a year and a half after the boy died. The family put pressure on prosecutors to press charges against Bishop and started a chalking campaign in front of the prosecutor’s office on South Calhoun Street around Thanksgiving, vowing to continue chalking until charges were brought.
The Allen County Coroner had ruled Elias’ manner of death undetermined. The cause of death was tracheobronchitis, but there were contributing factors of multiple bruises of varying ages and termed the injuries “abusive,” the coroner noted.
An autopsy by a forensic doctor indicated there was a “large contusion to the back of the victim’s skull,” but there wasn’t any immediate observation of brain inury. The same doctor noted there was “evidence of abusive injuries to the back of the head and bottom lip along with previous abusive injuries.”
The family who took to chalking the sidewalk to draw attention to the case said there was a dramatic difference in the toddler’s appearance during the last weeks of his life, from a chubby, happy child to one with a swollen, bruised face. They circulated photos of this as evidence.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Elias mother, Jocelyn Paez, woke up the day he died around 5:30 a.m. ,checked on the boy and gave him a kiss. He was asleep in his bedroom in a pack-and-play where he always slept, she said. Bishop was the only other person in the apartment as she left for work.
Around 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., she got “an abnormally nice text message from Trevon,” who told her “how grateful he was and how he was thankful she was always there for him.” He also said he wouldn’t have anything if it weren’t for her, court documents said.
When she got off work, though, she got other messages from Bishop asking her to meet him somewhere. At George’s International Grocery on Broadway, Bishop told Jocelyn there was “something wrong,” At that point, she asked Bishop’s mother, Kendra Bishop, and her stepmother, Maribel Paez, to check on Elias since they lived much closer to the apartment.
When Jocelyn got to the apartment and found her baby unresponsive on a mattress, “she screamed and neighbors responded,” she told homicide detective Ben MacDonald who wrote the probable cause. A witness reported that she heard Kendra Bishop tell Jocelyn, “Why did you leave him with my son? You know what happened last time.”
Bishop told MacDonald he got to the apartment at 4 a.m. When he checked Elias around 11 a.m., he noticed the baby didn’t look normal, that he was “discolored and stiff.” He said he thought he should call EMS, but wanted to talk to Jocelyn first. He met her at the grocery store because “he did not want to say it over the phone,” court documents said.
It was Bishop’s guess that Elias had an allergic reaction or swelling from eating pizza that was too hot, but he told MacDonald he knew the toddler was dead before leaving the apartment with his friends and calling Jocelyn.
Katelyn Gustin, a founder of local grassroots activist group, CAPPA – Child Abuse Prevention,Protection and Advocacy, was involved in the fight to convince prosecutors to bring charges.
“Right now, our biggest goal is to advocate for defenseless children. A lot of them don’t have voices. Their voices have been snuffed out. We want to see the prosecutors take a deep look into some of these cases and see where we can go with them. People need to be charged and held accountable.”
Gustin says data shows that Indiana has one of the highest rates of child deaths due to neglect and Allen County has one of the highest rates of these deaths in the state.