Neighbors say screams preceded boy’s death; FWPD, coroner investigating

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The makeshift memorial outside the home at 824 Putnam St. on the city’s northeast side spontaneously appeared after neighbors wanted to honor a 9-year-old boy they say died inside Friday.

Elijah T. Ross, 9, of Fort Wayne died at Lutheran Hospital early Saturday. The Allen County Coroner’s Office said Tuesday after an autopsy that while the boy 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.

Photo of Elijah Ross displayed at a memorial along Putnam Street.

Fort Wayne police Monday confirmed they are investigating a child’s death in the 800 block of Putnam Street. Police responded to the home at 1:17 a.m. Saturday on a juvenile neglect/abuse investigation, according to the police activity log.

Sunday evening, just after neighbors told WANE 15 police had finally cleared the scene and the yellow tape came down, they held a vigil in front of the home.

Teddy bears, a Snoopy dog, flowers and candles embraced a white poster, a kind of sympathy card. “RIP Elijah,” the card read, signed by neighbors and representatives from the boy’s school.

The next door neighbor, Ron, who didn’t want to give his last name because of the criminal nature of the investigation, said he was sitting on his porch Friday evening and heard loud arguing and screams from the boy and profanities from two women.

“It wasn’t an ordinary cry,” Ron said. “They scream and yell a lot over there. They’re always yelling at the kids over there. They’re always hollering at the kids and that’s all I ever hear.”

WANE 15 has made the decision to withhold their names pending the outcome of the investigation and the autopsy report from the Allen County Coroner.

Ron said he wished he’d called Child Protective Services, also known as Department of Child Services. The three boys who lived at the address had rarely been seen in the last three to four months, but were seen occasionally working on the yard, Ron and the other neighbors said.

A Putnam Street neighbor tends to a makeshift memorial for Elijah, the name of the boy who died Friday night or Saturday morning inside the home there.

“They were well-mannered,” Ron said.

The neighbor across the street said the boy who died, identified as Elijah in the sympathy poster, was the youngest of the three boys.

“These kids have always been protective of each other,” the woman across the street said.

She woke up around 3 a.m. Saturday after her dog wouldn’t quit barking and looked out to see multiple police vehicles outside the boy’s home.

“We stepped outside. There were forensic cars, detectives, big trucks, unmarked SUVs. We didn’t know what to do. All the neighbors started coming. We were in disbelief,” she said.

“We’re going to make sure those candles stay lit,” the female neighbor said. “We going to keep those teddy bears there. That child didn’t have a voice.”

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