Two days after 16-month-old Semaj Crosby was found dead, the house where the baby’s body was discovered was deemed uninhabitable, her parents reacted to the tragedy, and Facebook was abuzz about a video rant by Semaj’s godmother.
The godmother, whose relationship to Semaj was confirmed by the Chicago Sun-Times, said Semaj’s mother, Sheri Gordon, was “overwhelmed” when the girl was born.
The godmother claimed it was the baby’s father’s mother who continually called the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to report potential child neglect. But she added that when authorities had been at the house on Easter Sunday, the house was very clean.
A source close to the investigation agreed the house was “pristine” on Easter and also confirmed the woman was Semaj’s godmother.
The godmother said everything changed a day later when Gordon allowed the group of people whom police referred to as “squatters” to move in. “I told her to get those people out of there,” the godmother said repeatedly on Facebook.
She said they brought bags of dirty clothes with them, and she saw 10 cans of roach spray on the kitchen counter when she went back there during the search for Semaj.
The alleged mess jibes with the “large piles of clothing material stacked up along the door up to the ceiling” that authorities said they found before deeeming the Joliet Township house “not fit for human occupancy” on Friday.
Inspectors with the Will County Land Use Department “red tagged” the home after finding a non-functioning stove, the department’s director, Curt Paddock, said. In addition to the piles of clothes, Paddock said there were “various other indications of just essentially dirt and debris within the house.”
Inspectors were called in at the request of the Will County Sheriff’s Department, Paddock said. A notice of the violations has been sent to the building’s owner, Paddock said.
Semaj was reported missing Tuesday, prompting a massive search of the subdivision near Joliet where she lived with her mother.
Then on Wednesday night, the sheriff’s office and the FBI executed a search warrant on Semaj’s mother’s home — in the 300 block of Louis Road.
The little girl’s body was found inside the home under a couch, The Herald-News of Joliet reported Friday, citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the investigation.
The Will County coroner’s office conducted an autopsy, but has said the case will “require further study” before determining a cause of death.
Authorities are calling the case a “suspicious death.” No arrests have been made.
Rick Ackerson, the sheriff department’s investigations deputy chief, this week called conditions within the home “very deplorable.”
He also said Semaj’s mother was not as forthcoming as she might have been.
But Charles Bretz, an attorney for Gordon, said in a statement that she is cooperating with the sheriff’s office and other agencies — and that she is “extremely distraught over the death of her only daughter.”
DCFS has been working with the family since September 2016, with four unfounded investigations of neglect, and two other pending investigations for neglect opened in March 2017, agency officials said.
Just hours before Semaj went missing on Tuesday, DCFS officials were at the home investigating an allegation of child neglect, but saw “no obvious hazards or safety concerns” for the little girl or her two brothers, state officials have said.
The Herald-News also reported Friday that Semaj’s father, James Crosby, appeared in court Thursday before before being released from the Will County jail, where he’d been locked up for two months in connection with a theft case.
Crosby’s attorney, Cosmo Tedone, told The Herald-News Crosby has been “in a state of shock,” since learning of his daughter’s death.