FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The mother of a 9-year-old beaten to death a week before Christmas was at the Allen County Courthouse Tuesday morning.
Jenna Miller was not there for a hearing of her own, though; her trial is set for November. Rather, she was there for a family court hearing along with her mother, Mindi Hemminger, and the father of the late Elijah Ross. Lethaniel “Lamar” Ross is fighting to gain custody of their other biological son, Xayvion, 12.
Jenna Miller spoke briefly with WANE 15 on the second floor of the courthouse. She said she could not comment about her case or the upcoming trial, and said she was not aware in the same courthouse that morning, her ex, Alesha Miller, had her sentencing date continued.
While Jenna Miller wouldn’t comment on her own case, Lamar Ross opened up about the months since his son’s life was cut short.
Elijah was pronounced dead on Dec. 18 at St. Joseph Hospital downtown after Alesha and Jenna transported him there, “limp and cold,” with rigor mortis setting in, according to a probable cause affidavit written by homicide detective Aaron Johnson. Alesha is accused of holding Elijah down and beating him with her fists and a broken wooden paddle at their home at 824 Putnam St. just north of downtown. Jenna witnessed the entire beating and attempted to revive her son in the shower, according to court records.
Ross said he finds the court system bewildering as he fights for custody of Xayvion and possibly Jaden, who he helped raise before his ex-wife and Alesha, also known as “Hood,” became a couple. Both boys were in the Putnam Street home the night Elijah was killed and witnessed the beating.
Ross said after he and Jenna were divorced, visits with his sons were not a problem until Alesha came into the picture.
“There were no fights, no arguments, then slowly my communication just dwindled,” Ross said. “I tried to get my visits, schedule weekends. She wouldn’t meet me halfway. They were always real short conversations.
“In my whole entire life, I just wanted to see my boys.”
The animosity is apparent in a protection order Jenna filed against Ross in January 2019, claiming domestic violence and stalking. In the petition, which Ross said was never served, Jenna made a statement or a “description of incident.”
“I was at work when my wife sent me a message stating that Lethaniel Ross was at our home beating on the doors, windows and anything other that he could beat on. He drove around the block continuously honking his horn and screaming out of the window. He also sent pictures to me of my house from the driveway and from the front street stating that he was not going to leave until he confronted me face to face. He then stated to myself that he was coming to me which led into my leaving work not knowing if he would show up. He stated that he will continuously pop up until he has seen me and the children,” Jenna wrote.
Ross said he challenged the protection order “because it was completely false.” He was knocking on the front and back doors “trying to see the kids.”
Now he’s faced with the loss of Elijah. The image of his son in the casket haunts him and keeps him from sleeping, he said.
“I went to the funeral and seen the bruises on his face. That’s a recurring nightmare I have almost every night,” Thomas said during a phone interview last week. Ross said he had joint custody of Elijah and Xayvion but working with the Department of Child Services was difficult. He said SCAN, a children’s rights agency in Fort Wayne, has started working with him.
Ross said his son’s death was “definitely a homicide.” He questioned why Jenna Miller’s bond was “only $55,000,” which she posted. “Jenna has been out,” he said. “My son’s death was a homicide and her bond was only $55,000.”
Ross asked not to be recorded on video Tuesday because he’s still seeking advice, counseling and an attorney he can afford. His neighborhood friends, Pammy Benya and Amber Griswold, attended the sentencing and met him on the second floor after Alesha’s court appearance.
Benya and Griswold vouched for Ross, and keep up the memorial at 824 Putnam St. every day, replenishing it with teddy bears, hearts and flowers.
Katelyn Gustin, representing CAPPA which stands for Child Abuse Protection, Prevention and Advocacy, said she and other group admins see similarities in this case and the one involving the beating death of 2-year-old Malakai Garrett Nov. 29, 2017.
“The brutality of it. For us, it gripped us extremely hard knowing how much we put in to the case with Malakai Garrett and then hearing some of the details that were so like Malakai’s case,” Gustin said outside the courthouse Tuesday. “The brutality in general, it just grips people. How can you be that way with a child who doesn’t have a voice, who can’t defend themselves against an adult?”