It’s been five years since 17-month-old Sema’j Crosby was discovered dead inside her mom’s filthy house, but the terrible and devastating story of her father, James Crosby, feels like it occurred only yesterday.
The unresolved case is making news again now that Crosby has finally negotiated a settlement with the Department of Children and Family Services in her death. Despite his long-awaited legal win, Crosby says his heart still hurts for his little girl and that no amount of wealth can ever bring her back.
Sema’j went missing on April 25, 2017, after her father became worried for her well-being. At that point, the baby was in the sole consideration of her mom, Sheri Gordon, who lived in Joliet Township, Illinois. All things considered, it was obvious to the dad that the climate his girl was experiencing childhood in was not so great.
The baby was in the exclusive custody of her mom, Sheri Gordon, who resided in Joliet Township, Illinois, at the time. Having said that, it was evident to the dad that his child was growing up in a less-than-ideal situation.
Gordon’s house on Louis Road was part of an ongoing Intact Family Assistance case “intended to safeguard the safety and well-being of children without the requirement for protective custody by providing families with required in-home services.”
A caseworker had conducted an unannounced visit to the house the day before, and the caseworker rapidly discovered many difficulties with the living circumstances.
It was the 41st visit in the previous seven months, and it was conducted in response to fears that youngsters were being mistreated and adults were openly taking narcotics within the house. During the appointment, the caseworker noted how filthy the house was, but just instructed the mom to clean it up before they returned. According to the father’s complaint, a follow-up visit was planned, but if any steps were made to clean the house, little was accomplished.
A caseworker arrived the next day and discovered the house in chaos once more. The DCFS investigator reported several marks on the walls, clothing and toys on the floor, and “dirty dishes and trash left to the side of the kitchen” in a subsequent report. However, despite the fact that the home was still unlivable, it is unclear how the mom was penalized (if at all). Sema’j would be reported missing three hours later.
A more comprehensive investigation of the house the next day yielded a horrible discovery.
The Will County Sheriff’s Office began searching the residence at 11 p.m. on April 26, according to the father’s lawsuit. Officers had to don hazmat suits before entering the house owing to its “filthy, dangerous, and unsanitary circumstances.”
A tiny child’s body was discovered buried behind a couch without legs less than two hours into the search. Officers eventually pronounced the youngster dead at 1:27 a.m., and it was affirmed to be Sema’j Crosby.
The reason and method of death were subsequently determined to be “homicide by smothering” by a coroner (or asphyxia). However, who was to blame? For the past five years, this has been a source of contention.
To date, no one has been charged in Sema’j’s death, and the Will County Sheriff’s Office considers the investigation to remain open. The young girl’s father, on the other hand, has never been hesitant in blaming her mom, Sheri Gordon, and the DFCS for Sema’j’s death.
Following the discovery of the child’s death, the sheriff’s office declared Gordon’s home “uninhabitable.” The government even shared images to show how unclean and unsuitable the residence was for youngsters.
During a Senate hearing in May 2017, a DCFS official claimed that he felt the agency followed “correct protocols” when they left Sema’j and her siblings in the house with their mother. However, a report from the Will County Sheriff’s Office appears to contradict this, indicating that the house was deemed unsuitable for human inhabitants” because it was infested with bedbugs and cockroaches and was overrun with rubbish. It also lacked a functional fire alarm. Furthermore, the family had previously been examined four times for complaints of abuse.
In addition to Gordon and her four children, it is thought that up to 15 individuals resided within the house. According to Crosby’s lawsuit, police eventually referred to the people as “squatters,” albeit some of them may have been blood related.
Sadly, authorities were unable to properly investigate the area since it had been burnt to the ground in a suspected arson case just a short time after Sema’j’s corpse was discovered. The fire destroyed any proof that may have paved the way to the capture of a homicide suspect.
Crosby was jailed and unable to care for Sema’j at the time of her death. However, in his case, he accused Children’s Home and Aid, a DCFS contractor, of neglecting to take Sema’j from her mother’s care after finding that the kid was residing in dirtiness like circumstances.
Crosby’s attorney, Jay Paul Deratany, stated that there were countless warnings to Children Home and Aid and to DCFS that this child was in danger. The floor was terrible, there were roaches on the wall, the facility was deplorable, and they knew and should have known.
The DCFS responded by issuing a statement defending the state’s actions. The statement said that child welfare improvements are never speedy or simple. Many of the issues are long-standing and entrenched, yet everybody in this administration is genuinely dedicated to solving them and delivering the attention that fragile children and families really deserve.
Presently, Sema’j’s dad sees his daughter’s court win as proof that the state could and should have done more to safeguard his little girl and her siblings. Unfortunately, the $6.5 million he was given will not bring his young girl back, yet it will assist sustain the child’s siblings, who are currently being taken care of by other relatives, according to Deratany.