Death of 1-year-old missing Joliet girl called 'suspicious'

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Semaj Crosby, 1, was found dead Wednesday in Joliet. | Will County sheriff's office

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - Authorities are calling the death of a missing baby girl in southwest suburban Joliet “suspicious,” but are not yet calling it a homicide.

The Will County sheriff’s office and FBI executed a search warrant about 11 p.m. Wednesday at the home in the 300 block of Louis Road in Joliet Township, and reportedly found the body of 1-year-old Semaj Crosby about an hour later stuffed in a couch.

Deputy Chief Rick Ackerson described the conditions of the home as “deplorable” at a press conference Thursday morning.

An autopsy on Thursday did not rule on Semaj’s cause and manner of death, with results pending further investigation. While Ackerson called Semaj’s death “suspicious,” it has not been ruled a homicide.

Between five and 15 people live in the home at any given time, most of whom are “squatters,” Ackerson said. Three children between the ages of 16 months and 13 years, including Semaj, live in the home with their mother. DCFS will decide if the children stay in the home.

Semaj’s mother has retained an attorney, Ackerson said.

Semaj was last seen about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, playing with six or eight other children outside the home where she was found in unincorporated Joliet, according to the sheriff’s office.

A massive FBI search by police agencies and the FBI of the Preston Heights subdivision included bloodhounds, a helicopter and more than a hundred volunteers. A dive team also searched a pond in the Sugar Creek subdivision.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services officials had been at the home at 3:20 p.m. Tuesday, investigating a previous allegation of neglect against the girl’s mother, according to a statement from the agency. They saw all three of the children—including Semaj—and saw no obvious hazards or safety concerns, officials said.

Ackerson said police had previously been called to the home a few times, most recently for a “domestic situation” on Easter Sunday. No arrests were made in that incident.

DCFS has been working with the family since September 2016, with four unfounded investigations for neglect, and two other pending investigations for neglect opened in March 2017, agency officials said.

Ackerson teared up and called the investigation “tough” before ending the press conference.