A day after the mother of a 16-month old girl reported her daughter missing, the toddler was found stuffed inside a couch in the home they shared with squatters in Joliet Township, located in Will County, Illinois.
Semaj Crosby, was found after her mother, Sheri Gordon, reluctantly allowed detectives inside her house to search, authorities said Thursday. Will County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Chief Rick Ackerson said during a news conference that Crosby’s death was “suspicious,” but an autopsy is not yet complete.
Ackerson said up to 15 people lived in the house at any given time. He referred to them as “squatters” who were Gordon’s friends or relatives, staying for sometime and then moving out.
Following an initial autopsy, Will County coroner’s office said Thursday the cause of death is “pending further studies.” The office said it will be determined based on police investigation reports and final toxicology results, which could take several weeks, Chicago Tribune reported.
According to the Will County Sheriff’s press release Wednesday, Crosby was reported missing Tuesday evening by family members. She was in the care of and last seen by her mother in front of their residence wearing a gray long sleeve shirt with a cat face on the front, dark blue jeans, had multiple pony tails in her hair with white beads, and was barefoot.
After 30 hours of frantic search by the Will County Sheriff’s Office and FBI agents, Crosby’s body was discovered around 8 p.m. EDT inside a home in the 300 block of Louis Road in Joliet Township, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the neighbors, David Stocking, said he saw the little girl out in her front yard around two hours before she was reported missing Tuesday evening. “They ran up to the car. They just plain little kids, just out in the front. Everybody was outside,” Stocking said. “It’s just sad because I feel like I was one of the last persons to see her alive. It just hurts me because this shouldn’t have happened.” Neighbors said Crosby could barely walk, reports said.
Gordon had already been investigated by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for neglecting her baby. DCFS officers visited the home just hours before Crosby was reported missing, but said they found no immediate threat to the girl’s safety.
“We have had prior contact with this family including four unfounded investigations for neglect and two prior pending investigation[s] for neglect opened in March 2017,” said Veronica Resa, deputy director of communications for DCFS. “There were no obvious hazards or safety concerns at that time. DCFS has been working with the family, offering services since September 2016,” according to NBC Chicago.
Will County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kathy Hoffmeyer said DCFS had visited the family 16 times last year, according to reports.