CHICAGO (CBS) — The home where 16-month-old Semaj Crosby was found dead has been deemed uninhabitable as police continue to investigate her death as “suspicious.”
The Will County Land Use Department, after prompting from the Sheriff’s Office, inspected the house at 309 Louis Rd. in unincorporated Joliet Township, deemed it “uninhabitable,” and placed red stickers on windows to indicate that.
“The house was in very deplorable condition,” Will County Sheriff Deputy Chief Richard Ackerson said.
Semaj was found dead inside the home around midnight Wednesday night, after an attorney for the family convinced Semaj’s mother, Sheri Gordon, to consent to a search of the home. Sources said the body was found under a couch.
An autopsy on Thursday was inconclusive, the Will County Coroner’s office is waiting for the results of toxicological tests to determine how she died. Police have said they do not know where she died, and although police have not declared her death a homicide, they have said it is “suspicious.”
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A prayer vigil was held Thursday night outside the house where Semaj was found. Lighted candles and messages of love were placed on the sidewalk. Neighbors said they want to know what really happened, and to get justice for Semaj.
“I feel sick, because it’s not right. This is not right. The little baby didn’t even live a life,” neighbor Addie Holmes said.
Police have said Semaj’s family lived in the rented home with several squatters. Ackerson said 5 to 15 people lived in the home, and the family’s attorney told police all but Gordon and her three children were squatters.
Gordon reported Semaj missing Tuesday evening. Ackerson said police made a “cursory” search of the home right away, but believed Semaj was outside, because witnesses said they had seen the toddler walking down the road after she had been playing in the yard.
When the first search came up empty Tuesday night, police decided to start from scratch, and wanted to search Gordon’s home again, but were told no, according to Ackerson. Police tried to get a search warrant, but Ackerson said the Will County State’s Attorney’s office said they didn’t have enough probable cause.
“They pretty much told us that, because all indications from witnesses indicated the child had walked away, we could not get a search warrant at that point.” Ackerson said.
It wasn’t until late Wednesday night that Gordon’s attorney convinced her to consent to a search of the home, and Semaj’s body was found.
“Ms. Gordon is extremely distraught over the death of her only daughter. She will continue to support the investigation in this matter to the best of her abilities,” her attorney said in a statement issued Thursday.
Ackerson said investigators would like to interview Gordon again, as well as anyone connected to the home where Semaj’s body was found. That includes a woman who tried to get Gordon to stop talking to police when they interviewed her Wednesday morning. The woman apparently told police she is a relative of Gordon’s
“We did it at our command post that we had set up behind the school, in a makeshift interview room inside a trailer, and I believe it was her, and she was pounding on the outside of the trailer, trying to get her to stop talking,” Ackerson said.
Investigators with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had visited the home a few hours before Semaj was reported missing, but said Semaj and the other children were safe at that time.
“We have had prior contact with this family including four unfounded investigations for neglect and two prior pending investigation for neglect opened in March 2017. DCFS had been at the home on April 25 at approximately 3:20 p.m. and had seen all three of the mother’s children including Semaj. There were no obvious hazards or safety concerns at that time. DCFS has been working with the family, offering services since September 2016,” DCFS spokeswoman Veronica Resa said in an email.
The DCFS inspector general was investigating Semaj’s death.
“The DCFS Office of the Inspector General investigates child deaths and serious injuries where the family has had contact with the Illinois Child Welfare system within the past twelve months,” the inspector general’s office said in an email.
No one was in custody Friday morning, and Ackerson said interviews were continuing.