A 16-month-old boy was murdered in Dundee in the summer of 2002. The case has never been solved. The boy’s mother or her then boyfriend are the only possible suspects. That is the assertion Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella made in a court motion made earlier this month to compel the two to provide DNA samples and bite impressions as the investigation of the 17-year-old cold case is taken up again.
According to Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, on Aug. 29, 2002, Sheriff’s Deputies received a report that Ethan M. Eslick, 16 months, was found dead by his mother, Kelly L. Axtell, age 24 at the time, at 47 Highland Drive in Dundee. The only other people present in the apartment were his 3-year-old brother, who was uninjured, and Kelly’s live-in boyfriend, Ronald McGuire Sr., 28 at the time.
The body was sent to the Monroe County Medical Examiner for a forensic autopsy. Spike says the official ruling on the cause of death as homicide by asphyxiation, was not made until several months later in 2003.
“The criminal investigation was extensive,” says Spike, adding, “however no arrests were made, and the matter turned into an open cold case.
“Four months ago, new leads were developed and Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division enlisted the resources of the New York State Police Troop E Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Canandaigua and the FBI in Corning and Buffalo in continuing this cold case investigation.”
A new forensic examination by an FBI consultant, of the photos and notes from the original report now contests that ruling, finding instead that Ethan died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen. That consultant also stated that the 3-year-old brother could not have inflicted that injury. A new pathologist will examine the evidence for a formal finding.
That investigation led to Casella’s motion, and the appearance of Kelly Axtell, now 41 and called Anderson, and Ronald McGuire Sr., now 44, in Yates County Criminal Court Tuesday, Feb. 19, where Judge Jason Cook granted the motion permitting the taking of the DNA by cheek swabs, and the dental impressions.
“Sometime between Aug. 28 and Aug. 29, 2002, Ethan Eslick was murdered,” reads Casella’s motion. “At the time he was murdered there were only two individuals in the residence physically capable of inflicting the injuries that killed Ethan Eslick. Ronald McGuire and Kelly Anderson are those two individuals.”
“Criminalistics and forensic science has developed over the past 16 years,” says Spike, “and the Yates County District Attorney’s office application for the court order Feb.19 is another step in this criminal investigation. Resources devoted to this case, especially by the N.Y. State Police BCI have been exceptional, and we thank them for the collaboration,” said Sheriff Spike.
The motion papers, which include the medical examiner’s report, detail several injuries to Ethan’s body, including old and new bruises consistent with a pattern of chronic child abuse, bite marks, and damage to his stomach and spleen.
The investigators’ reports in the motion papers also point out numerous inconsistencies in the stories Anderson and McGuire told police, their families, friends, and neighbors. Ethan’s father, James Eslick, was living in Ohio in 2002, and his older bother, now 21, lives there with him.
No arrests have been made and neither Anderson nor McGuire have yet been charged.