A mother and her two children have been accused of killing her six-year-old son on his birthday, before dumping his body in an alley in Indiana and then falsely reporting him missing.
Damari Perry was allegedly held under a cold shower for an extended period of time by family members until he vomited and lost consciousness on 30 December, in a case officials have described as “one of the worst” they’ve ever seen.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the abuse was allegedly carried out under the orders of Damari’s mother Jannie Perry on what was the boy’s sixth birthday.
Ms Perry allegedly wanted to punish her son for something he had allegedly done the day before.
After he became unresponsive, Damari was taken out of the cold water and left to die, authorities said.
“He was placed into a cold shower for an extended period of time, held there by family members at the direction of the mother,” Mr Rinehart told WGN9.
“We believe the mother may have been involved also, and at some point, he became unresponsive, vomited and died.”
Following his death, the family members left Damari’s body dumped in an alley near an abandoned home in Gary, Indiana, WGN9 reported.
Ms Perry, 38, then reported her son missing six days later on 5 January.
The family members initially claimed that Damari might be missing in Skokie, Illinois, according to a press release from Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office in Illinois.
Prosecutors said Ms Perry claimed that Damari and his older sister had been picked up by a Black female named “Monique” and a Black male known as “Wacko” or “Chaos” and taken to a party in Skokie.
But their “completely false” story quickly fell apart and investigators turned their attention to the boy’s home in North Chicago, Illinois, authorities said.
Several family members were questioned about the events surrounding Damari’s disappearance, which led investigators to focus on the mother and the adult siblings and to the discovery of Damari’s body late on Friday night.
Ms Perry was charged with first-degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death, and obstructing justice on Saturday.
Damari’s adult brother, 20-year-old Jeremiah Perry, was also charged in connection to his little brother’s death on counts of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm to a child under 12, concealing a homicidal death, and obstructing justice.
Another sibling of Damari also faces charges of concealing a body but has not been publicly identified and is being held in Lake County’s Juvenile Court because they are underage, authorities said.
Prosecutors said that more charges could be filed as the investigation continues.
Jeremiah Perry appeared in court on Sunday where he was ordered to be held on a $3 million bond.
Ms Perry is expected to appear in court on Monday.
Damari’s autopsy is expected to be carried out on Monday to determine the cause and manner of his death.
Mr Rinehart said “our hearts ache over the murder of 6-year-old Damari Perry” and vowed to “bring Damari’s killers to justice in a courtroom”.
“I’ve been working in criminal law for almost 20 years now and this is one of the worst cases I’ve seen,” he said.
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