Elias Paez's family was still looking for answers and justice Friday, the first anniversary of the 19-month-old's death.
Elias' family wore blue T-shirts featuring a photo of the happy toddler with the words, “Always on my mind, Forever in my heart.” They also held bright signs that asked for justice for Elias – some in English and some in Spanish – during Friday's vigil.
Elias Paez was found dead on Oct. 22, 2020, in his mother's Fort Wayne home. The final autopsy report was released in August.
“There's been no justice served for him as of today,” said Staisy Cardenas, Elias' aunt. “We want charges filed against those who were complicit to his abuse and those who could have called 911 and instead ran away and didn't do anything to save Elias.”
The Allen County coroner's office ruled the cause of death as tracheobronchitis, an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes carrying air to and from the lungs. Other notations mentioned “multiple bruises of varying ages” and called those bruises “abusive injuries.”
The manner of death has remained undetermined.
“His death has not been ruled a homicide by the coroner's office,” said Stacey Davis, one of the leaders of #JAVA – Justice Accountability & Victims Advocacy. “However, it has not been ruled as natural causes either.”
Davis said the JAVA community has multiple families who have had babies die suspiciously but without a manner of death determination.
“If either of those people had called 911, this baby possibly could have been saved,” Davis said. “In my opinion, that is neglect. So why no one is being charged in a case like this makes no sense to us.”
Davis led the victim's family in a prayer in English before the family decided to pray in Spanish as well. The event was designed to keep Elias' memory alive, Davis said, and it will likely become an annual tradition, regardless of whether charges are filed.
Elias' family has tried to garner attention on social media, hoping the case is reconsidered by the prosecutor's office.
“The prosecutors are hitting it out of the park right now, so we want more,” Davis said. “We want more cases prosecuted, and this is one of them.”
Cardenas held one of Elias' cousins in her arms as she talked Friday about what a joyful child Elias was. He seemed to laugh at everything, and he loved to smile and run, Cardenas added.
“It's going to be hard for us to gain any justice unless his case is reopened,” she said.