Controversies abound in the case of Jesus Cornelio. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck has charged the seventeen year old as an adult in the death of his toddler cousin, who allegedly sustained a fatal injury after Cornelio shoved him while Facebooking on his phone. Meanwhile, his family is protesting his arrest and portraying what happened as a tragic accident, not a crime.
According to the Greeley Tribune, Cornelio had a previous gang affiliation, albeit one that Buck doesn't consider active. The charge against him, then, was dictated by his actions on March 22, when he was put in charge of watching Jose Angel Cornelio-Espinosa, his two-year-old cousin, and a four-month-old nephew.
At a Weld County Courthouse rally last week, Cornelio's father, Martin, reportedly said Jesus had to be convinced to babysit Jose, who was said to be "rowdy." Whether he was experienced at doing so is a matter of debate: The Tribune maintains that the 22nd was his first time, while CBS4 quotes his sister as saying he'd been watching the child since he was born. But whatever the case, the task ended in tragedy, with the toddler being rushed to an area hospital in dire condition from a head injury and passing away at a different facility after suffering cardiac arrest two days later. What happened? According to the arrest affidavit cited by the Tribune, Cornelio offered several variations on his account. First, the document quotes him as saying Jose was out of sight when he fell from the couch and wound up on the floor, face down. The second version was similar, but he added that he'd moved a coffee table into another room for safety's sake before anything went awry. Then he allegedly said he'd been in the kitchen when he watched the boy tumble off the couch and strike the coffee table's leg.
Finally, Cornelio told the story prosecutors believe is the real one: When Jose grabbed for the teen's cellphone while he was checking Facebook, he shoved him in the chest, causing the child to smack his head. At that point, Cornelio apparently began shaking the toddler in an attempt to revive him, but Jose began vomiting before becoming unresponsive. This reaction inspired him to move the coffee table out of the room (see story two) before calling for help, the affidavit says.
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District Attorney Buck hasn't detailed why he decided to charge Cornelio as an adult with child abuse resulting in death, although in a conversation with the Tribune, he alluded to him being just one month shy of eighteen as a possible factor. Cornelio's next due in court on April 26.
Look below to see a larger version of Corenlio's mug shot and a CBS4 report.
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More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Merhawi Ocbamichael charged as adult for aggravated robberies as direct file bill advances."