Law enforcement describe it as an unthinkable crime. Seventeen-month-old Semaj was reported missing and then was discovered under the family's couch. Investigators said she was purposely placed there and they want to know by whom. Police said there are still five people of interest in the case, one or more who are responsible for Semaj's murder.
According to Dan Jungles, Will County Sheriff Deputy Chief of Investigations, the people of interest are Sheri Gordon, Semaj's mother; Darlene Crosby, Semaj's paternal grandmother; Lakerisha Crosby, Semaj's aunt; Tamika Sims, who is a family friend; and a minor who has not been named.
Neil Patel, attorney for Sheri Gordon, said she has cooperated with police and wants justice in the case. Patel said she did not do anything wrong and is a victim along with her daughter. Patel was in the room when Semaj's body was found under the couch.
"It was a very difficult thing to see," Patel said.
Deputy Chief Jungles has supervised the case since the beginning. He said there is no doubt in his mind that one of the five individuals at Semaj's house is responsible for what happened to her.
"I believe that there are other individuals out of the five that know exactly what happened," he said.
Tamika Sims said she has cooperated extensively with police and was asked as recently as a few months ago to help with the investigation. Sims told the I-Team she distanced herself from Darlene and Lakerisha Crosby when she said their stories started to change. She said she had nothing to do with the murder or the cover-up, and she wants her name cleared.
"I have nothing to hide," said Sims.
There is still a lot of finger pointing and rumors surrounding the case, according to police. Deputy Chief Jungles said these are the facts: Semaj's cause of death was asphyxia and her toxicology was clear.
The fire that destroyed the family home a week and a half after Semaj's death was ruled an arson by the state fire marshal. Investigators said any additional evidence still in the home would have been destroyed.
The Will County Sheriff's detectives working on the case will keep Semaj's picture on their desks until the case is solved. Deputy Chief Jungles said his goal is to hold somebody accountable for the murder of this child.
"We have a feeling as to what happened but you know whether or not we can prove that in court is another story. I would like to think someone will come forward because this is an innocent child. No child deserves that," he said.
Documents from DCFS detail 11 different child protection investigations involving Semaj's family between 2015 and 2017, when the toddler was murdered.
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Three investigations were initiated for reported safety issues with Semaj's brother. Additional investigations a result of allegations of child neglect and abuse in the home.
DCFS was criticized after Semaj's death for not doing more to protect her.