The death of a toddler has left residents reeling in shock after authorities found her dead under couch in home days after she was declared missing. After searching for two days for a missing 16-month-old in Illinois, authorities found the toddler’s dead body underneath a couch inside her home, PEOPLE confirms.
The child’s death is considered suspicious and authorities had been investigating the girl’s mother for alleged neglect, the Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. The agency had visited the family’s Joliet Township home just hours before the toddler was reported missing, but found no immediate threat to the child’s safety, a Department of Children and Family Services spokesperson said in an email to the Chicago Tribune.
The home was in a “very deplorable” condition and often inhabited by squatters, Rick Ackerson, deputy chief of the sheriff’s office, said at a news conference Thursday.
Earlier Thursday, the sheriff’s office contacted the local land use department to check on the home. “Upon the conclusion of their examination, they have deemed the house uninhabitable and have red-tagged it,” the statement from the sheriff’s office said.
The child’s family reported her missing at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to police. DCFS had been at the home about 3:20 p.m. and seen Semaj and two siblings with “no obvious hazards or safety concernsat the time,” DCFS spokeswoman Alissandra Calderon said in the email to the Chicago Tribune.
DCFS had visited the family 16 times in the last year, according to the sheriff’s office. An attorney representing the child’s mother, Sheri Gordon, said her client was “extremely distraught” over the death of her little girl. “She prays for her daughter and appreciates the community’s support,” the attorney, Neil Patel, said in a written statement on Facebook.
“We look forward to when we can put this tragic incident behind us and allow the healing to begin.”