3-year-old's body discovered in freezer of Detroit home; mother arrested
Detroit — When a team of Detroit cops and a state child advocate arrived at a rundown house on the city's west side Friday morning to conduct a wellness check, the woman who answered the door acted strangely, police officials said.
"She tried to push the officers away as if there was nothing going on," Detroit Police Chief James White said. "Something was not right about the conversation."
Their suspicions raised, the officers called for a supervisor and the team entered the home. They found five children living in squalor — and the decomposed body of another child, thought to be a 3-year-old boy, entombed in a basement freezer.
"This case has shocked me, and shocked our investigators," White said during a Friday press conference down the street from the crime scene.
Following the discovery of the boy's body, the woman was arrested and her five surviving children taken to a hospital, White said. Once their physical health is assessed, the children will undergo "Kid's Talk," a forensic interview with investigators and a child psychologist.
"The other kids who were in the home — just imagine what they've gone through," said White, a licensed mental health counselor. "Imagine what they endured living in that home.
"You can imagine they're all going to be suffering from some level of trauma. We'll learn more in the coming hours and coming days after the kids are interviewed."
In addition to interviewing the suspect and her children, investigators are looking into whether the woman had previous contacts with Detroit police or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, White said.
Toni Haynes, the boy's grandmother, said she and other family members have called Child Protective Services "dozens of times."
Haynes said her dead grandson's name was Chayse Allen, and that he was blind. Haynes said she became suspicious when her daughter, Chayse's mother, told her the boy had burned his hand by touching a plateful of noodles.
"I knew that was some bull----," Haynes said. "I called CPS on her. A lot of us called, and they'd come out and give her kids right back to her."
Haynes said after the state visited her daughter's home several times, her daughter told her Chayse had gone to live with his paternal grandfather's girlfriend in Coldwater.
"But then (the grandfather) got out of jail and he told me Chayse wasn't living with his girlfriend," Haynes said.
She said family members went to the house on Monte Vista about two weeks ago to confront her daughter, followed by another call to state Child Protective Services.
Haynes said she had no idea how long Chayse had been entombed in the freezer.
"You wouldn't believe how pissed off I am about this," she said.
Investigators also did not know Friday how long the child's body was in the freezer or whether his siblings knew he was interred there, police said.
Police didn't say what triggered the wellness check by officers from the 2nd Precinct and a representative of the state's Children's Protective Services program. But after the team entered the home, "then this sad and tragic discovery happened," White said.
"The house was in poor condition, and there is a lot of concern for the other children based on what we saw in the home," the police chief said.
White said the officers who were at the scene are being offered counseling through the department's Peer Support program.
Friday's grisly discovery harkened to a 2015 case involving Mitchelle Blair, who enlisted the aid of two of her children to help kill their two siblings and cram their bodies into a freezer.
Known as the "Freezer Mom," Blair pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges and is serving a life prison sentence.
At the house on Monte Vista Street Friday, a collection of stuffed animals lined the front steps, while three children's bicycles lay on the back lawn.
Next door neighbor Lynette Hardy said she had never met the boy whose body was found in the freezer. But she said she often bought clothing and food for the five other children, whom she described as "deprived."
"I did help clothe them and feed them and take care of them," Hardy said. "They were very loving children. As a matter of fact, the mother was loving.
"They didn't have anything," Hardy said of the kids next door. "In the winter I saw them with summer clothes on ... summer shoes, some had no shirts.
"I picked up the children Saturday and (the mother and I) had a nice conversation," Hardy said. "She asked me did I know of any tutoring programs for the children to learn how to read, and I gave her the best information I had."
She said she was "devastated" to learn of Friday's discovery in the house next door, and said she was under the impression the child was living with relatives.
"I never met him," Hardy said of the boy. "(His mother) said that her aunt and uncle in Alabama had him ... and that he was really adjusting."
Hardy said she's praying for the surviving children.
"I believe in prayer," she said. "Those kids need a lot of attention. They need a lot of schooling. They need a lot of help."
Haynes has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Chayse's funeral, and for clothing and other necessities for the surviving children.
"If anyone has anything other than money that they can donate to the children, we would greatly appreciate that too due to the mother being incarcerated," Haynes wrote. She said the other children are girls aged 3 months and 9 years old; and boys aged 2, 5 and 7 years old.
"Please keep our family in your prayers," Haynes wrote.