Murder charges have been filed against a South Side man in the death of his girlfriend’s 19-month old daughter, whose body was found in Riverdale over the weekend, authorities said.
James Harris, 23, was taken into custody by Chicago police on Sunday afternoon shortly after Amierah Roberson was reported missing, officials said. He was charged Wednesday morning after admitting he killed the little girl in his apartment and then dumped her body in Riverdale, police said.
Harris is the boyfriend of the child’s mother, Jocelyn Roberson. According to the child’s family, he was supposed to watch the child on Sunday while Roberson went to work. But when Roberson came to pick up her daughter that evening, she was told the child disappeared, said Bernadette Madison, 46, Amierah’s grandmother.
“He was running around saying, ‘She’s missing.’ My daughter was hysterical,” Madison said on Monday.
Two hours before Amierah was reported missing, the body of a toddler was found in a Riverdale park by a passerby. After an autopsy, the Cook County medical examiner determined the body was that of Amierah and she had of subdural hematoma and closed head injuries due to assault. The death was ruled a homicide.
On the night she was reporting missing, Chicago police searched cars and apartments in the 3500 block of South Rhodes Avenue looking for Amierah, the girl’s family said. They searched the apartment complex’s trash compactor and brought in K-9 units as they made door-to-door visits.
The police, however, did not issue an amber alert for the child. Amber alerts are issued based on the discretion of investigating detectives, authorities said.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had no prior contact with James Harris, a spokeswoman for that agency said Wednesday.
But at the time of the Amierah’s death, there was a pending abuse investigation against the girl’s mother, Jocelyn Roberson, officials said. That investigation was opened in early February.
After Harris was taken in for questioning by police on Sunday night, DCFS took protective custody of another child that was living in his household, the agency spokeswoman said. But officials would not reveal that child’s relation to Harris.
Harris and Jocelyn Roberson went to high school together and had been dating for about seven months, the woman’s family said. Roberson spent the night at his place on Saturday and left her daughter in his care the following day.
News of the charges dealt another devastating blow to the girl’s family, just as they were making funeral arrangements, said Tamika Vaughen, the toddler’s aunt.
“We don’t know what happened or what would make him do this,” Vaughen said. “This is heartbreaking to our family and it’s a terrible tragedy. Our family loves our babies, so I just can’t understand how he could do this.”
Harris has a small child of his own, Vaughen said, but her family didn’t know the South Side man too well. When he did come to family gatherings, he was well-mannered and polite, Vaughen said. Jocelyn Roberson told her family the two had their share of disagreements, but Harris was never violent and never lost his temper with her.
Among her family, Amierah was known as “Moonie,” Vaughen said. Although she was just a baby, she had a reputation for her singing and dancing. The girl lived with her mother and grandmother in Calumet City, but would have contact almost daily with her aunt.
“We are just drained and we keep breaking down (emotionally),” she said. “Our hearts are so heavy. That was our baby and she was a happy baby. I can’t see why he would do this. No kid deserved that.”
Source: Chicago Tribune