4-year-old dies in Kent County; man arrested

GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The Kent County Sheriff's Department says a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection with the death of a 4-year-old boy.

Giovanni Mejias, courtesy photo.

That child was identified by neighbors as Giovanni Mejias.

Deputies were called to a mobile home on Green Meadow Street SE in Gaines Township at about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday on reports of a child who wasn't breathing.

“The mother pulled up in a truck they told her the baby wasn’t breathing," says Debra Howard, a neighbor who says she called police. "So she ran out of the truck screaming.”

Deputies and emergency personnel were able to restore the child's pulse and the child was taken to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital downtown. He later died.

“He’s a little mischief for a 4-year-old, but a good happy child,” says Lewanda Vaughn, another neighbor. "I seen Giovanni running around. He’d been sick for a few days throwing up whatever.”

Police confirm the child had been sick prior to Tuesday's incident but have not said whether it's related to his death.

Neighbors say the boyfriend of Giovanni's mother was watching the children at the time, identifying him as Elis Nelson Ortiz. Online jail records show a man with the same name was booked into the Kent County jail Tuesday afternoon on murder charges.

“So this is an ongoing, fluid investigation," said Captain Bruce Ivie with the Kent County Sheriff's Department. "This is suspicious right now and we had several interviews. Based on all the information we have right now, the prosecutor advised us to lodge this subject, who is a 25-year-old male out of the Grand Rapids area for murder charges."

Investigators tell FOX 17 that the child was in the home with six other children, the oldest of whom were about 10 or 11 years old. Giovanni's mother was at work when the incident happened and got home before the ambulance left.

Child Protective Services has been notified. The other children living in the home are currently with other family members.

Editor's Note (June 15, 2017): The Kent County Sheriff's Office initially said the spelling of Giovanni Mejias' last name was "Meijas." This story has been updated with the correct spelling.

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