A woman who was found dead Friday, wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a plastic storage bin inside a Gary home, has been identified, officials said.
The woman’s body, which had been doused in bleach, was found at about 3 p.m. Friday at a home in the 1900 block of Cleveland Street, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.
She was identified Saturday afternoon as Samantha J. Fleming, 23, of the first block of West Claire Street in Anderson, according to the Lake County coroner’s office in Crown Point. The woman had been stabbed to death, according to the coroner, and her death was ruled a homicide.
Police from the central Indiana city of Anderson had come to Gary on Friday afternoon in search of a young mother and her newborn daughter who had been missing since early April. The 3-week-old infant, who was in the care of a suspect’s sister, appears to be fine and will be returned to relatives in Anderson, Pawlak said.
But the story of how Fleming came to Gary is bizarre, police agree. Investigators from Gary and Anderson will sort through the events in the days ahead.
Anderson police had asked for the public’s help in finding Fleming and her daughter, Serenity, who left Anderson on April 5 with a woman who said she was from the Indiana Department of Child Services and claimed Fleming had a hearing in Lake Superior Court, Anderson police said.
Soon after, relatives stopped hearing from her. Fleming’s boyfriend reported her missing, police said.
Gary police found Fleming’s wallet about two weeks ago at Woodlake Village apartments in Miller, and her cell phone had “pinged” on 15th Avenue near Interstate 65, Pawlak said.
In the meantime, a 36-year-old Gary woman who lives at the Cleveland Street home had set up a room in her home for a baby girl, police said.
“There was everything you would buy for a new baby. A crib, changing table, diaper bag, carrier, new clothes,” Pawlak said. She passed off this baby as hers, police said. “It appears that she had been planning this,” he added.
Investigators believe the woman posed as a Child Protective Services worker and lured Fleming to Gary.
At some point, the Gary woman asked her sister to care for the infant. The alleged kidnapper was later located in a hospital in Texas, Pawlak said.
“She knew a lot about this mother, enough to convince her she was with CPS,” Pawlak said. Detectives will have to determine how she was able to gather information about the woman.
The suspect’s sister had come to the house to pick up more items for the baby Friday and surrendered the child to police. Pawlak said the baby was examined at the hospital and is in good health.
A neighbor of the suspect is now questioning the relationship she had with her. The young woman, who asked not to be identified, said the last time she heard from her neighbor was around Easter.
The neighbor, who moved to Cleveland Street about a year ago, said she and the suspect were friendly but distant until January. Pregnant at the time, the two became close after the suspect helped her when she gave birth to her daughter at home.
“My phone was dead, so one of my sons went to go call the ambulance from a neighbor’s house,” the young woman said. “(The suspect) stayed with me and went to the hospital with me, and from then on, we were very close.”
The suspect was pregnant at the time and said she was expecting twins, the young woman said.
Around Easter, the young woman said the suspect told her she had given birth, but one of the twins had died. The suspect also told her that she hadn’t told her family that she had given birth because they had been harassing her doctor.
The second baby, the suspect told the young woman, was in the hospital recovering from jaundice.
A short time later, the young woman saw the suspect and a baby. The suspect was wearing sunglasses and had a bandage on her hand. The young woman said she thought the baby was “lighter-skinned” than she expected.
The suspect told her at that time she was leaving town and asked the young woman to watch the house while she was away. The young woman said she and the suspect texted regularly, though.
Friday was the first time the young woman had seen anyone at the house in weeks. When she texted the suspect Friday to let her know what was going on at the house, the suspect didn’t reply.
“(The suspect’s) sister was at the house and then left, and then a police car came by,” the young woman said. “The sister came back, and then several police officers showed up.
“When I saw them bringing the body out, I thought it was (the suspect) for a second.”
The neighbor said a night or two before the suspect left, she saw her going back and forth to the garage from the house with little plastic grocery bags.
There was also a night when she and a couple of other people left around 9 p.m. and didn’t come back until late the next day.
“She was an amazing woman, and I don’t want to place judgment,” the young woman said, visibly shaken. “But her not responding today has made it more weird.”
Detectives Alexander Jones and Jeff Minchuk are working with Anderson investigators on the case, Pawlak said.
Source: Chicago Tribune