SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - The death of toddler Semaj Crosby, found in a Joliet Township home that later burned to the ground, has been ruled a homicide by the Will County coroner's office, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
In a statement Friday afternoon, the coroner's office announced the 17-month-old's death was a homicide caused by asphyxia.
The coroner's office said the determination was also based on "the unusual circumstances surrounding her disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her decomposing body under the couch in her own home, the multiple previous contacts by the Department of Children and Family Services."
A spokesperson for the Will County sheriff's office could not be reached for comment.
Neil Patel, the attorney representing Semaj's mother, Sheri Gordon, said the coroner's ruling was "not a finding that surprises us."
"We are doing everything we can to cooperate with the sheriff's investigation to the best of our abilities," Patel said. "Our concern right now is bringing to justice the people that did this horrible thing."
Asked to identify who those people might be, Patel declined to elaborate.
Semaj lived in an 864-square-foot home in the 300 block of Louis Road with her mother, three siblings, paternal grandmother, paternal aunt, her two young children and her parolee boyfriend. Gordon's Section 8 housing voucher was allotted for only her and her children, Joliet housing officials previously said.
The sheriff's office said the home was in "very deplorable" condition when the child was found on April 27.
Semaj was found dead under a couch in the house about midnight April 26.
The day before, DCFS had been at the home investigating a child-neglect allegation, but saw "no obvious hazards or safety concerns" for Semaj or siblings, state officials said. Semaj, her three siblings and mother all slept in the same bedroom.
About two-and-a-half hours after the visit from DCFS, the toddler was reported missing, prompting a massive search of the subdivision near Joliet. A top police official said a lawyer for the girl's mother made them get a search warrant before they entered the home and found the girl.
Less than two weeks after Semaj was found dead, the house burned to the ground. Authorities said arson was "most likely" the cause.