FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The death of a Fort Wayne boy has officially been ruled a homicide by the Allen County Coroner’s Office.
Elijah Ross, 9, died early Saturday morning after being taken to a local hospital from a home on the 800 block of Putnam Street. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The Coroner’s Office announced Friday that Ross died from blunt force injuries. According to court documents, Ross had numerous bruises and signs of abuse.
Both Ross’s mother and stepmother were arrested this week in connection to the boy’s death.
Ross’s mother, Jenna Mae Miller, 36, was taken into custody around 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the area of Lake Avenue and Beacon Street, according to Sgt. Tim Hughes of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s homicide unit. She faces preliminary charges of Level 1 felony Neglect of a Dependent Causing Death, Level 1 felony Neglect of a Dependent Failure to Render Medical Aid, and two other counts of Level 6 felony Neglect of a Dependent.
Miller’s wife and Elijah’s stepmother, Alesha Miller, has already been arrested, accused of beating the boy and causing his death.
According to a probable cause affidavit released Wednesday, Jenna Miller brought Elijah to the hospital. He was “cold and limp” when they arrived, and was pronounced dead just after 2 a.m. Doctors found “multiple bruises” on the boy’s arms and face, “major” bruising to his lower back and buttocks, multiple bruises and swelling and abrasions on his shoulders, and a small cut on his penis.
In an interview with police, Alesha Miller said she and Jenna Miller were at a Christmas party when she took a call that said the brothers had been fighting and the victim was pushed into a bookcase around 9 p.m. Friday, the affidavit said. She said after the boy went upstairs, Jenna Miller – her wife – yelled that the boy stopped breathing and vomited, the affidavit said.
At that point, the couple put the boy in the car and went to the hospital, while performing CPR, Alesha Miller told police.
Jenna Miller gave the same story to police, according to the affidavit.
On Monday, police interviewed two other children. One said that Alesha Miller, who the children called “dad,” “went hard” on Elijah, and would “slam him to the ground” and “whoop him with the paddle” multiple times, the affidavit said. After the abuse, Elijah would “ball up,” the brother said.
The night of the incident, one boy said he and Elijah were fighting and he texted his parents because he was “fake-vomiting,” and Alesha Miller told him to “beat him up” and make him sit in the corner, the affidavit said. When the couple arrived back home from the Christmas party, “dad” began yelling at the victim.
A brother said Alesha Miller called him downstairs to hold Elijah’s feet because she needed to “whoop him” and he was “squirming everywhere” and “trying to fight back,” the affidavit said. She hit him with a wooden paddle on his buttocks, the child said.
Elijah eventually got “knocked out,” the child told investigators. Alesha Miller splashed water on him and shook him trying to get him to wake up, the child said.
He said Jenna Miller was going to call police but Alesha Miller said the police would arrest them both and they didn’t want to go to jail, the affidavit said.
In another interview with police on Tuesday, Alesha Miller told police she whooped Elijah with a belt on his buttocks three times three different times. She said the night of the incident, the brother was the one who whooped Elijah with a paddle, the affidavit said.
Jenna Miller told police that Alesha Miller “continuously kept whooping the victim,” the affidavit said. She said Alesha Miller held Elijah down with her legs and hit him multiple times as he screamed “please stop,” and he eventually went limp, the affidavit said.
The couple then put the boy in the shower. In the shower, Jenna Miller said young Elijah squeezed her arm and said, “Mommy.”