Body of missing toddler found in "deplorable" conditions inside family's home
JOLIET, Ill.(CBS NEWS) -- The body of a 16-month-old girl was found at a \"deplorable\" home in northern Illinois that she and her mother shared with squatters, authorities said Thursday. The girl's mother reluctantly allowed detectives inside to search a day after she reported her daughter missing, the sheriff's department said.
A source told CBS Chicago that Semaj Crosby's body was found stuffed in a couch.
Will County Sheriff's Department Deputy Chief Rick Ackerson said during a news conference that the girl's death was \"suspicious,\" but that an autopsy is not yet complete.
The Will County coroner's office said in a statement the autopsy was inconclusive. It said final results will depend on toxicology results and the investigation by authorities.
Ackerson said the investigation was hindered by the girl's mother's refusal until late Wednesday night to allow authorities to search the house in Joliet, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. The mother initially spoke to investigators, but later refused to answer questions on the advice of an attorney, he said. At one point during an interview with investigators at the house, she fell silent after another resident pounded on the door and shouted for her to stop talking.
Ackerson said it wasn't clear who was in the house when the girl disappeared, explaining that the attorney for the mother said that from five to 15 squatters \"come and go as they please.\"
\"The house was in very deplorable conditions,\" Ackerson said, without elaborating.
The mother reported her daughter missing on Tuesday, sparking a massive hunt involving dozens of volunteers and law enforcement officers, as well as drones and bloodhounds.
The girl disappeared shortly after a visit from Department of Children and Family Services officials who were investigating an allegation of neglect made against the mother. The officials saw Semaj outside the house, as well as the woman's other two children. They noticed no apparent hazards or anything else that raised concerns about the children's safety, Ackerson said.
The DCFS told CBS News' Crimesider that they could not comment on the case.
Ackerson said the mother still has the two other children but that they are no longer staying at the Joliet house.
Until they found the child's body, the sheriff's department said investigators suspected that Semaj had probably wandered off and perhaps had hidden herself somewhere and fallen asleep. On Thursday, Ackerson said that deputies had made a \"cursory\" search of the residence on Tuesday and did not find the girl. And, he said, based on statements from credible witnesses who saw the girl outside the house shortly before she vanished, authorities believed the girl was not inside.