Elijah Vue’s mother’s friend pleads not guilty in missing toddler case

Jesse Vang reported Elijah missing on 20 February

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 16 April 2024 18:56 BST
Related video: Volunteers search for Elijah Vue in Steven Avery’s salvage yard, without connecting evidence

Jesse Vang, the man who was caring for 3-year-old Elijah Vue before the boy disappeared in February, has pleaded not guilty to charges connected to his disappearance.

Mr Vang, 39, entered the not-guilty plea to a charge of chronic child neglect as party to the crime on Tuesday. Prosecutors have said that Mr Vang is in a relationship with Katrina Baur, Elijah's mother, who allegedly sent her son to stay with him for "disciplinary reasons" and to teach him how to "be a man".

Mr Vang has been accused of forcing Elijah to stand in place for hours at a time and for making him to take cold showers, despite only being 3 years old.

The boy was last seen at around 8am on 20 February on the 3900 block of Michicot Road in Two Rivers, a town on the shore of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, where Mr Vang lives.

Two Rivers Police Department said they received a missing persons call at 10.59am that day from an “adult caregiver”, who later turned out to be Mr Vang.

Ms Baur, 31, reportedly told police that she had sent her son to Mr Vang so he could teach the boy how to be a man.

Elijah Vue, 3, was last seen in Two Rivers Wisconsin on 20 February 2024 (Two Rivers Police Department)

On 20 March, messages between Mr Vang and Ms Baur in the days leading up to Elijah’s disappearance were detailed in court filings.

“I told you to trust me… I’m a make sure he hates me and being here,” Mr Vang told Ms Baur on 18 February.

She responded that she doesn't "want [Elijah] to *hate* YOU. Just fear you.”

Mr Vang was arrested a few hours after Elijah was reported missing. He was charged with child neglect and has a criminal history that includes child abuse. He was held on a $20,000 bond.

During his interviews with investigators, Mr Vang gave police a view into the world Elijah inhabited before his disappearance.

Mr Vang’s home had only one toy in it, which Elijah was only given around Christmastime. He was not allowed to play with the toy at the time he disappeared, as he was staying with Mr Vang as a punishment, investigators learned.

Investigators were also told by Mr Vang that the boy was forced to take a cold shower after he relieved himself in his diaper.

Jesse Vang, left, and Katrina Baur, right, have been charged with child neglect in connection to the disappearance of Ms Baur’s 3-year-old son, Elijah Vue (Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office)

The day after Elijah disappeared, Ms Baur was arrested and charged with child neglect as party to the crime. Prosecutors said she changed her story twice while she was speaking to investigators, which resulted in her facing an additional two charges of obstruction.

She pleaded not guilty to her charges in late March.

Ms Baur was held on a $15,000 bond, which she filed to have removed by the judge. That request was denied on 7 March after her own mother told the court that she should not be allowed to walk free.

“I don’t feel it’s worth the risk to lower her bond, especially as [Elijah] has not been found and many questions remain unanswered,” the mother’s statement, read in court by District Attorney Jacalyn LaBre, said.

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