Dozens of mourners gathered Tuesday outside a Fort Wayne home in memory of a 9-year-old boy, and they shouted his name while releasing balloons with the promise of justice now that an arrest has been made in his death.
Police Chief Steve Reed shared his condolences and news of the arrest of Elijah Thomas Ross' stepmother minutes before the candlelight vigil began, prompting some whoops among the tears.
Alesha Lynn Miller, 30, of Fort Wayne, is charged with aggravated battery resulting in death, neglect of a dependent resulting in death and two counts of neglect of a dependent.
Elijah died Saturday after he was taken to Lutheran Downtown Hospital, said Dr. E. Jon Brandenberger, Allen County coroner.
Although an autopsy revealed Elijah suffered multiple blunt force injuries, investigators were still trying to determine the cause and manner of death, Brandenberger said. The coroner's report was released Tuesday afternoon before police announced Miller's arrest that evening. She was being held without bail at the Allen County Jail.
A probable cause affidavit expected in court today could offer more details about the boy's death.
Hospital staffers tried to save Elijah, but he was pronounced dead by the doctor who treated him, Brandenberger said.
Jeremy Webb, Fort Wayne police public information officer, said officers were called to a home in the 800 block of Putnam Street just after 1:15 a.m. Saturday. According to the police department's activity log, officers were investigating possible juvenile neglect or abuse.
The coroner's office was told of Elijah's death at 1:40 a.m. Saturday, Brandenberger said.
A makeshift memorial was established Monday on Putnam, just east of Sherman Boulevard and north of Spring Street. The collection of stuffed animals, flowers and photographs glowed in candlelight Tuesday during the vigil.
Police cars blocked Putnam to vehicular traffic so family and neighbors could remember Elijah, who was described as kind, well-mannered and sweet.
One speaker encouraged adults to look out for children in the community – to help them when they are in trouble, to feed and clothe them when they need. Another told the mourners to cherish their loved ones.
The group lifted their candles and, as one person explained, yelled Elijah's name to let him know his community fought for him.