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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Boy, 5, fighting for life amid custody battle

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Liam Mills, 5, was taken off life support Dec. 7. Today, he’s breathing on his own after three weeks on a ventilator. As he continues to fight for his life in Riley Hospital for Children, his family is fighting to regain custody and make decisions about his care.

The family’s fight began in 2019 when Elijah Mills, Liam’s father, lost custody. Elijah Mills has not seen his son since November 2019 due to a court order following abuse allegations. At that time, Liam was taken to Riley Hospital where he underwent surgery for bleeding on the brain. His paternal grandparents petitioned for custody but were overruled by a juvenile judge because Liam needed specialized care. Upon release from the hospital in January, he was placed in the custody of an unnamed white foster family.

During a Dec. 9 press conference about Liam’s care, Mills claimed he never abused his son. COVID-19 caused courts to shut down and postpone trials, delaying Mills’ trial on a charge of felony battery until February 2021.

Roughly three weeks ago, Liam developed pneumonia and was put on life support. Because of the no-contact order, Elijah Mills had no say his son’s treatment. Instead, he said, the foster family made the decision to end life support. A spokesperson for the Department of Child Services (DCS) said the juvenile court, not the foster family, has final say in these decisions.

“These were people that have only known him for a little under a year,” Marcelle Mills, Elijah’s father, said. “When Liam was in the hospital [in January] I never seen a foster parent, never seen the [biological] mom, but my wife and I would go up after work almost every single day. … What perplexes me is that I lose my right as a grandparent because you haven’t sent my son to court to prove himself innocent in front of a jury of his peers.”

While DCS can’t provide details about this case specifically, policy states the juvenile court, using recommendations from physicians, makes decisions on end-of-life care or removing life support for children under state care.

While Elijah Mills awaits trial, his family and business owner Antonio Lipscomb hope Marcelle Mills and his wife to get custody of Liam.

Lipscomb, who hired Elijah Mills at his company, Minority Contractors Collaboration, following Mills’ release from jail, said he knows his heart and hopes the father can reconnect with his son.

“When his son was hospitalized, Elijah was the one to make sure his son could get the medical care he needed, only to have the media and doctors and others begin to put a case against this young man and lock him up,” Lipscomb said. “There has not been one moment that Elijah has asked about how to get help for himself, just to try and get help for his son.”

Both Marcelle Mills and Elijah Mills believe taking Liam off life support was a way to add new charges to Elijah’s case.

Currently, both he and his girlfriend, Taylor Abrams, face charges of felony battery. Abrams was also charged for failure to report abuse following the Nov. 12, 2019 incident that led Liam to require brain surgery. The cut off to add more charges is Dec. 18.

“That’s why we believe all of this is going on,” Marcelle Mills said. “Once that date rolls around, they can’t change the charges against [Elijah].”

According to court documents, the medical assessment by Riley doctors concluded Liam’s injuries were “life-threatening … and highly suspicious for inflicted/nonaccidental trauma.” In addition to brain surgery, Liam also was treated for other injuries including “bone growing over muscle due to trauma and multiple bruises.”

In previous interviews with police, Mills said Liam suffered from frequent headaches and collapsed and hit his head a week prior to the incident. Mills said he doesn’t know of any diagnosis or explanation as to why this occurred.

According to the family, their only other involvement with DCS occurred when Liam’s biological mother signed papers granting Elijah Mills full custody of Liam.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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