A Jefferson County man accused of abusing his girlfriend’s young son, causing permanent brain injury, was scheduled to go to trial this month in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
But now, Josue Jair Mendoza-Melo faces a second case involving 11 Measure 11 sex abuse charges with a different alleged victim.
Mendoza-Melo, 22, has been in jail on $1 million bond since November 2017, when he was arrested after his girlfriend brought her unresponsive 2-year-old son to a hospital emergency department with lacerations and bruises all over his body.
On April 24, Mendoza-Melo was served a new indictment containing nine charges of first-degree sex abuse and two of first-degree sodomy.
All the charges fall under Oregon’s Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentencing law for violent and sex-related offenses.
The alleged sex abuse took place between January 2008 and January 2010, when the victim was younger than 14. Mendoza-Melo was about the same age.
He was arraigned on the new charges Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
It’s unclear how his new case will affect the pending child abuse charges. Sometimes, cases are delayed when a defendant is charged with new crimes. In other instances, defendants are more willing to settle after new allegations are added.
On the morning of Nov. 9, 2017, Katylynne Rogerson walked into St. Charles Madras holding her 2-year-old son, who was described by a hospital nurse as “stiff and unresponsive.” After several hours of treatment, the boy was flown to Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, where he underwent emergency brain surgery.
Mendoza-Melo was interviewed at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. He allegedly admitted to being present when the boy was injured. At first, he told police the child had climbed his baby gate and fallen over the other side.
His story changed under further questioning. Mendoza-Melo told sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Webb he pushed the child backward, causing him to hit his head, and he played rough with the boy in the child’s room.
“Josue showed Sgt. Webb that he was shaking Ezra back and forth smacking the back of his head on the floor,” according to the probable cause affidavit from Mendoza-Melo’s arrest. “Josue said that (the boy) got up and looked like a ‘drunk baby’ and was falling on top of toys.”
Mendoza-Melo put the boy in bed and looked up “concussions” and “head injuries” on the internet on his phone, he told police. He decided to take the child to his mother, who was at her job at ACE Hardware. From there they rushed to St. Charles Madras, according to the probable cause affidavit.
He was charged in circuit court with attempted murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, third-degree assault and two counts of criminal mistreatment. He pleaded not guilty.
Earlier this year, proposed legislation inspired by Mendoza-Melo’s case was shot down in the Legislature. Jefferson County District Attorney Steve LeRiche and Crook County DA Wade Whiting joined with Rep. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, to draft a proposed law that would have increased penalties for offenders who gravely injure their victims.
Whiting was inspired by a case in his jurisdiction in which a contractor was shot randomly in a Prineville bar on New Year’s Eve. Nick Ricks was paralyzed in the attack, and suffered other life-altering injuries.
But Whiting has said he was only able to secure a prison term of six and a half years for Ricks’ attacker, Omar Araim, in part due to Araim’s lack of prior criminal history. Whiting said his hands were tied due to Measure 11.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org