FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Loved ones of Elijah Ross gathered on Putnam Street Tuesday night for a vigil for the 9-year-old boy.
The child died at a Fort Wayne hospital early Saturday. Tuesday morning, the Allen County Coroner’s Office said after an autopsy that while Ross had “multiple blunt force injuries,” it could not determine the cause and manner of his death. Both are pending further investigation and testing, the office said.
Among the dozens of people who showed up to pay respect to Elijah was Mindi Hemminger, his grandmother. Fighting through her grief, she tearfully told WANE 15 that the past couple of days have been rough and the worst is yet to come.
“You should never have to bury your children or your grandchildren, or a sibling for the little ones. They should not have to be going through this. His brothers miss him and it’s not fair to them,” Hemminger said.
The past weekend, Hemminger received a phone call that her grandson wasn’t breathing. She lives in Ohio but rushed to Fort Wayne as soon as she heard the news. A few hours later she found out that he didn’t make it.
“I lost it,” Hemminger said. “[this is a] Total shock to me. This is something my daughter would never do. She loves her babies.”
Hemminger said she wants her grandson to be remembered for his beautiful heart. She added that he was very compassionate and would console anyone who seemed to be in pain.
“He was a spunky little guy, he had a lot of energy,” Hemminger said. “He just loved life and he loved coming to the lake. Loved going out in the water. He just loved the outdoors period. He was such a goodhearted little boy. He would do anything for anybody and jump right up and get anything for you if you needed it. And he gave the best little foot rubs.”
Hemminger wants everyone to remember to hug their loved ones and tell them they love them because “you never know when you will never see them again.”
More than 50 people showed up for the vigil. The crowd left dozens of candles, teddy bears, flowers, balloons and others gifts for Elijah. Blue was Elijah’s favorite color and the crowd released blue balloons in his memory.
Minny Jackson, a local Fort Wayne activist said what happened to Elijah was tragic. She added that this happens way too often and it’s time for the community to stand up to violence against children.
“When I saw Elijah’s face I cried, I cried. I mean I could barely get up this morning because it just hit me so hard,” Jackson said. “When it comes to children, me being a parent, me being someone who knows somewhat how CPS (Child Protective Services) works, somebody has to be a voice for the voiceless. Somebody has to be able to stand up for the children who can’t stand up. This is not their fault, no matter what it is that they do, it’s not their fault,”
Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed was also in attendance. He stopped by the vigil to offer his condolences to the family and friends and to let them know that FWPD made an arrest.
“Any death in our community is tragic but when it’s a little kid it’s hard on everybody,” said Chief Reed. “It’s sad. It’s a little kid. They didn’t get to live their life. They were taken from us.”
Chief Reed commended his detectives for following leads and arresting Elijah’s stepmother, 30-year-old Alesha Lynn Miller, just after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. She was charged with aggravated battery resulting in death, neglect of a dependent resulting in death, along with two other counts of neglect of a dependent.
Miller is currently being held in the Allen County Jail without bond. An initial hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.