The search for a missing Will County toddler, Semaj Crosby, came to a poignant end late Wednesday night when the Will County Sheriff’s office, along with the FBI, found the child dead inside her Juliet Township home in the 300 block of Louis Road, according to CBS Chicago.
At around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25, 16-month-old Semaj was playing outside with her cousins in front of her home that she shared with her mother and two brothers, and possibly other relatives.
Semaj’s mother, Sheri Gordon, was going to take the children to get ice cream but her car wouldn’t start, police say. As she and another adult were trying to jump the car in an effort to get it started, relatives say Semaj, who just learned how to walk a couple weeks prior and was wobbling on her feet, had wandered off.
The Will County toddler was later reported missing, which prompted more than 100 police personnel from various jurisdictions, as well as volunteers, to search for Semaj.
Will County Deputy Chief Rick Ackerson stated that witnesses reported seeing a child wandering the street, matching Semaj’s description, but after hours of searching the area and nearby ponds, there was no trace of the missing Will County toddler.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, who had investigated Semaj’s mother in the past for possible neglect, were at the home hours before the Will County toddler went missing. Investigators with DCFS noted that all the children in the Joliet Township home were present during their visit.
In an email, a DCFS spokesperson Veronica Resa said the following.
“There were no obvious hazards or safety concerns at that time. DCFS has been working with the family, offering services since September 2016.”
Several neighbors said they didn’t “understand the family’s explanation about the child wandering off” as she could barely walk.
“I don’t know what happened, I don’t know if they had any foul play. I don’t know if it was an accident. I don’t know nothing, but this is not right,” said neighbor Brittany Stocking.
Thirty hours after the Will County child went missing, Semaj’s body was found in a couch inside her Joliet Township home, where deputies with the Will County Police Department say Semaj was living in “very deplorable conditions.”
Police officials say they made efforts to question the Joliet Township toddler’s mother about Semaj’s death, but a relative continued to interrupt the interview in a bid to stop the woman from speaking with police. An attorney she hired had subsequently “cut off the interview.”
At this time, details leading up to the Joliet Township toddler’s death are unknown, but police officials say Semaj’s death is suspicious.
Neighbors were devastated and stunned after learning the missing Will County child have been found dead inside her Joliet Township home.
“I honestly feel the whole thing was a big waste of time. You have choppers, the people from the community, police going door-to-door. They searched my house better than they searched the house that she was missing from. We’re looking all around here to come and find out she was in that house the whole time?” Zachary Stocking said.
“It just hurts me, because it shouldn’t have happened at all,” Stocking said.
Adrian Smith, who helped search for the missing Will County toddler, said he wasn’t surprised that she was found in her Joliet Township home, considering that she had just learned to walk. Semaj couldn’t “have gotten too far anyway unless someone came and picked her up.”
Semaj’s autopsy result came back inconclusive, which would require “further studies” into how she died. Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will be investigating the Joliet Township toddler’s death.
[Featured Image by Will County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook]