Three-year-old Josiah Brown was pushed into Lake Michigan by his “beloved aunt,” who then stood by as he sank at Navy Pier, where divers would find him half an hour later, prosecutors said in court on Wednesday.
The boy was in cardiac arrest when he was pulled out of the water and taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital in “very critical condition”, officials said. He is unlikely to survive, prosecutors said during a bail hearing for Aunt Victoria Moreno.
When Moreno appeared in court, the boy’s father was hospitalized at Loyola Medical Center, where he was awaiting a heart transplant, and was unable to see his son.
Judge Susana Ortiz refused Moreno’s bail, despite the defense arguing that she suffered from mental health issues. The judge called Moreno’s actions “deliberately brutal and heinous”.
His decision came after a detailed account of Moreno’s actions on the day of the incident on Monday. That morning, she and the boy left the family home in Des Plaines as another aunt woke her children and their grandmother went to change, according to prosecutor Lorraine Scaduto.
Moreno “stole the keys” to the family’s truck and “left the house without anyone knowing she had left,” Scaduto said.
The other aunt stopped hearing the boy speak “and was alerted,” Scaduto said. At that moment she realized that Moreno and the boy were gone and that the truck was gone.
Moreno was not allowed to drive because she was taking medication for “mental health issues” and because of an alarming incident a week earlier when she drove away with several children, prosecutors said.
Moreno initially tried to take the boy to the Shedd Aquarium, but later decided to bring him food at Navy Pier. After the boy left the restaurant, he wandered down a street and was nearly hit by a car pulling out of a garage, Scaduto said.
Moreno grabbed the child and started walking with her on the sidewalk near the water. The child crawled under one of the barrier chains and was on all fours at about 3 feet from the edge and the 6 foot drop into the water.
Moreno grabbed the child’s foot and pulled him back, “apparently because there were several people nearby,” Scaduto said.
“The defendant looked around several times and waited for people to leave, looked around again and when no one was there she let the 3-year-old crawl back under the chain to the edge of the platform – did nothing,” he said. Is it over there. Escaduct.
Moreno then climbed onto the chain, mounted the child and, according to prosecutors, pushed her off the platform with both hands. She sat up and looked out over the water as the boy sank, Scaduto said.
Seconds later, Moreno walked several meters away and stood on the sidewalk “doing nothing new” as passers-by called 911 and threw a lifebuoy into the water, the prosecutor said.
“Once again, the defendant stood still and did nothing, did not offer help to the child and also claimed that she did not have a phone with her to make calls,” said Scaduto.
“Not once during these events did the defendant scream for help, ask for help, beg for help or try to help,” she said. “When the police arrived, the defendant pretended not to know anything about the child.”
The boy was retrieved from the bottom of the lake about 30 minutes later, around 1 pm. Suffering from swelling in his brain and bleeding in his lungs, he had several seizures and several cases of cardiac arrest, Scaduto said.
“He is unlikely to survive these serious injuries,” she said, adding that the incident “is a tragedy for this family in every way.”
Moreno was arrested at the scene and charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault of a child.
Patrick Shine, his public defender, said his client suffers from “severe mental health”, suggesting the attack was motivated by a psychotic breakdown and was not premeditated.
“I think something happened…inside her,” Shine said. He said Moreno has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and insomnia and takes medication daily.
“This incident is an anomaly in her past,” he said, adding that she has no criminal record.
He played the incident a week earlier, in which Moreno took his young family members to Navy Pier, as a “field trip” and claimed that his intentions on Monday also began “innocently.” He said Moreno has been married and has lived in the family’s Des Plaines home for 14 years.
His mental health issues are well known in his family, Shine said.
“I don’t think anyone can tell what my client was thinking,” he said.
Shine asked Ortiz to deny prosecutors’ request to hold Moreno without bail and instead release her under electronic surveillance so she can get help while she awaits trial.
While Ortiz Morenos acknowledged struggles with mental illness, she also said her alleged actions appeared, at least in part, to be premeditated.
“I consider Mrs. Moreno a danger to the community at this time – and to his specific family members and children in general,” Ortiz said, refusing bail and ordering Moreno to stay away from his family and witnesses in the case.
His next trial date has been set for September 30.
Ashton King and Allison Huston said they were walking by the lake that afternoon when they heard a splash and noticed Moreno peering into the water where the boy was floating on his back. Moreno denied knowing him, Huston said.
“He seemed disoriented, a little out of his mind. [and] terrified,” King said. “He was just looking at the sky. His eyes were super, super wide and he was trying his best to stay afloat.”
King said he immediately called 911 when Huston tried to keep the boy “as calm as possible.” Until then, he still had his eyes open, but he wasn’t responding, King said.
She then remembered going through a lifeguard, but the boy was already submerged in the water when Huston grabbed him.
“I’ll never forget seeing his face as he glided under the surface,” Huston said. “It was absolutely horrible.”
Rescue teams arrived a short time later and pulled him out of the water. Moreno had already backed off and “did nothing” as the boy drowned, King said.
“My boyfriend and I thought there was something wrong with this woman,” King said. “She just seemed absent. She looked like she was possibly under the influence of something.”
While Moreno initially told police she was just a witness, the women said they asked officers to question her further because of her strange behavior.
King, who lives in Oak Forest, said the incident “has hit me a lot harder” because she is a mother of three young children.
“It was really, really hard to deal with and realize how this could have happened,” she said. “And you deal with the guilt…how else could I have helped? Or what else could I have done? Or did I do things quickly enough?”
The boy’s family lives in a quiet apartment block in Des Plaines, where the family calls him “JoJo,” according to a relative who opened the family’s home on Wednesday.
Neighbors said the boy’s father has a medical condition that has required him to be carried by stretchers and ambulances several times in recent weeks. His father Dantrell Brown took to social media three years ago, aged 22, just days before Josiah was born, about his diagnosis of congestive heart failure.
Last week, Brown launched an online fundraiser to get help paying for a heart transplant after suffering medical complications recently.
“Anything helps,” he wrote. “I hope to be able to return home with my son and wife soon.”
Most people on the block where Josiah lives are friendly and talk to each other almost daily, but the child’s home was notable for being quiet and reserved, neighbors said.
“They are reserved,” said a neighbor, who asked not to be named.
“A very close family,” said neighbor Nikki Skarbek. “They must be devastated.”
Another neighbor said that the children at home often played in the family’s backyard. The family organized the children’s birthday parties.
“They are not a bizarre family. Everyone has two jobs,” said the neighbor.
Several neighbors were shocked to learn that Victoria Moreno was accused of hurting Josiah. Some said they hadn’t seen her at the house in a decade and were surprised that she still resides there. A neighbor recalled that years ago, Victoria Moreno was escorted to a block party for hyperactive behavior.
“Victoria had something going on,” said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified. She said she suspected she was using drugs at the time.
Source : localtoday.news