In a courtroom packed with nearly 100 supporters of a severely injured little boy, the man who caused the boy's life-threatening injuries was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Sept. 12.
As part of a negotiated settlement, Josue Jair Mendoza-Melo, 22, of Madras, pleaded no contest to attempted aggravated murder, a Class A felony, and first-degree criminal mistreatment, a Class C felony, which occurred on Nov. 19, 2017.
Prosecutor Brentley Steele Foster, chief deputy district attorney, recounted the crimes that led to the sentence, noting that on Nov. 19, 2017, police received a call about a critically injured 2-year-old child, who was unresponsive when he was taken to St. Charles Madras, by his mother and his mother's boyfriend, Mendoza-Melo.
The toddler, Ezra Thomas, was airlifted to Oregon Health and Science University with catastrophic injuries, which included a brain bleed, a large bruise on his forehead, a scraped chin and bruising beneath his jaw.
The deputy investigating the incident learned that Mendoza-Melo was in charge of caring for Ezra while the boy's mother, Kaytlynne Rogerson, was at work that morning. Two hours after Rogerson went to work, Mendoza-Melo drove with the boy to pick up Rogerson, who looked at her son and told Mendoza-Melo that they were going straight to the hospital.
During the interviews with Mendoza-Melo, his story changed from saying that the boy fell, to admitting that he had shaken the boy, who had repeatedly hit the back of his head on the floor.
"He demonstrated his actions with a doll," said Foster, noting that it wasn't until Ezra acted like a "drunk baby" that he realized that he was injured.
Looking at the extent of his injuries, Foster said that medical experts said that it wasn't possible that it was an accidental injury.
Tina Jorgensen, Ezra's grandmother, now has custody of her 4-year-old grandson, who requires round-the-clock care.
Speaking about her love and hopes for her grandson, Jorgensen said, "He had a whole life ahead of him. I had a life of grandma moments to share with him. Sadly, my hopes and dreams for Ezra's future were taken away on Nov. 19, 2017."
"Before that date, I lived a normal life," said Jorgensen, who had spent 25 years in banking, working her way up to the position of branch manager, but had to quit her job in order to care for him.
"Once normal, and now we are a family striving to give Ezra the best possible life, living a life of hell, but attempting to take moments to enjoy what we have," she said. "We have strangers in our home daily. There is no time to get in jammies and settle down to relax for the nights. This is our new normal, and we are adjusting as best that we can. Every day is a gift and we cherish the moments."
Speaking directly to Mendoza-Melo, Ezra's mother, Kaytlynne Rogerson, said, "You gave him a life sentence and you deserve one ... My son can't see, can't eat, can't breathe on his own."
Mendoza-Melo's attorney, Laura Moszer, said that they agreed to the settlement because, "At the conclusion of all this, I believe the evidence would have been enough to convict him."
Asked by Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Annette Hillman if he wanted to make a statement, Mendoza-Melo said, "No, your honor."
Hillman sentenced Mendoza-Melo to 10 years in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections on the first charge, and two years on the second charge, to be served consecutively, followed by three years of post-prison supervision. He will receive credit for time served on the first charge, but may not be considered for any form of reduction in sentence.
Charges of first-, second- and third-degree assault and another charge of first-degree criminal mistreatment were dismissed.
Mendoza-Melo is scheduled to be back in court in October for a trial on sexual abuse charges unrelated to this case.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.