FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The curbside memorial to the 9-year-old boy who died early Saturday morning grows as mourners place more flowers, balloons and particularly, candles, many of them tended by neighbors who keep them lit.
Details of Elijah Ross’ death and the knowledge that he suffered multiple blunt force injuries, according to the Allen County Coroner, have gripped the community beyond the boy’s neighbors in the 800 block of Putnam Street.
Chief of Police Steve Reed appeared at a vigil on Tuesday night where more than 50 people cried out for justice.
“Well, it’s sad,” Reed told WANE 15. “It’s a little kid who didn’t get to live their life, taken from us.”
Alesha Miller, 30, Elijah’s step mother, turned herself in to Fort Wayne police Tuesday afternoon and was charged with aggravated battery causing death, neglect of a dependent causing death and two additional charges of neglect of a dependent.
Her next court hearing is Dec. 29 as she awaits that time in the Allen County Jail in lieu of $55,000 bail.
More speculation on the whereabouts of Jenna Miller, Elijah’s biological mother, ended Thursday when Sgt. Tim Hughes, head of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s homicide unit, reported that she was taken into custody without incident near Parkview Randallia hospital around 12:30 p.m.
Her charges include neglect of a dependent resulting in death, neglect where defendant failed to render medical aid and two additional counts of neglect of a dependent, Hughes said.
Residents are clamoring to know more about the slight, mischievous boy who squeezed his mother’s arm as she held him in the shower shortly before he died and said “Mommy.”
By that time, Elijah had gone limp from the many beatings he endured with a broken sorority-style paddle, allegedly from Alesha Miller, court documents said.
Fort Wayne police also noted there was a “white leather-like belt” found at the home at 824 Putnam St. where the two women lived with Elijah and his two older brothers, neighbors said. Their ages are estimated at 11 and 13.
During the course of the boy’s calvary, documented in a probable cause affidavit written by homicide detective Aaron Johnson, that night Elijah was screaming “please, stop!” to his attacker, identified as Alesha Lynn Miller.
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A brother told police Monday during an interview at the Child Advocacy Center that Elijah was abused and that his “Dad”, i.e. Alesha Miller, “went hard on him,” court documents said.
It apparently particularly infuriated Alesha Miller when Elijah would bring up her brother’s suicide and she would “slam him to the ground” and “whoop him with the paddle.”
Neighbors said Alesha Miller was particularly hard on Elijah, the youngest, and constantly picked on him.
This physical punishment happened multiple times, court documents said. When Elijah was “choke slammed” he would “ball up when he would hit his head on the floor after being slammed by dad.”
Just where Elijah’s biological father was when the Franke Park elementary school third grader died was revealed in more court documents obtained by WANE 15.
Lethaniel Ross, 38, is at the South Bend Community Re-Entry Center with a release date in September, according to the Indiana Department of Correction website. He is serving a sentence for cocaine possession dating to Aug. 21.
Jenna Miller slapped a no-contact order on Ross in January 2019 through the small claims division of Allen Superior Court, claiming she was the victim of domestic violence and stalking. Boxes checked indicated Jenna Miller reported Lethaniel Ross “threatened to cause physical harm to her,” and he “placed me in fear of physical harm.”
The no contact order also lists those present at the time of a June 2018 incident: her wife, Alesha Miller and sons, Jaden Oliver, Xayvion Ross and Elijah.
“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,” Jenna Miller’s narrative of the court order reads. “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,” the last sentence read.
In July 2019, Ross was charged with cocaine possession and accepted into Allen County Drug Court by Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, court documents indicate. He violated Drug Court rules in November 2019 and was ordered into state custody, before the no contact order could have expired.
Dating from the June 2018 incident, it’s likely Ross hadn’t seen his son for at least three years.
Efforts to speak with Lethaniel Ross were unsuccessful.
Online, a GoFundMe was set up for burial expenses for Elijah entitled “Funeral costs.” Created three days ago, so far, more than $4,000 has been raised for funeral costs with a goal of $20,000. Any money left over after the funeral and other expenses will go towards Elijah’s two older brothers, the GoFundME said.
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