Neighbor says she reported abuse in home of murdered 2-year-old
Neighbors and family gathered on Daspit Street to remember Ezekiel Harry, who police say was killed at the hands of his own mother and her boyfriend.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Questions are being raised about the extent of the abuse happening in the home of 2-year-old Ezekiel Harry, who police said was murdered at the hands of his own mother and her boyfriend, and later dumped in a trash can.
It was a massive search effort for most of the day Tuesday when Harry’s 28-year-old mother, Maya Jones, told police Harry had been abducted while Jones was walking along Bayou Terrebonne with her three other children.
A neighbor, who didn’t want to be identified, was alerted to the alleged “abduction” when Jones began banging on her front door.
“At first she was anxious, I thought maybe she was in shock. But I was anxious too. I was about ready to have a panic attack,” the neighbor told FOX 8, saying Jones asked to use her phone to call 911. “I’m heartbroken. I’m devastated that she would come into my home and do this, and not speak the truth. She knew the truth the whole time.”
Once police arrived to question Jones, they said her story began to unravel, leading them to Daspit Street in West Houma. There, they located Harry’s remains, dumped in a trash can.
“The sad part, when I heard about it, I had to do the sign of the cross. When I heard they found [Harry] in the garbage dump, that’s a sad situation,” said Peter Petri, who lives two houses down from where Jones stayed on Carriere Street. “If you don’t want a child, put it up for adoption instead of killing it.”
Now, Jones and her live-in boyfriend Jermaine Robinson, 37, both face charges relating to first-degree murder and obstruction of justice. Terrebonne District Attorney Joe Waitz said he plans to speak with Harry’s family before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty.
“This is absolutely a death penalty case,” D.A. Joe Waitz said. “What happened to this little 2-year-old shocks the conscience.”
Neighbors tell FOX 8 there was a history of abuse happening within the home. Sara Plaisance, who lives across the street, said the fighting had gotten worse in the past three months.
“I started getting really scared because the screaming would last nights on end,” Plaisance said. “All you would hear is him screaming and yelling. You can hear it inside my house, to the point that I had to move my daughter out of her room. Her room is in the upstairs corner of my house, and it was so bad that she couldn’t sleep at night.”
She says she called the police several times, with the last time coming just weeks ago during a major fight because one of the children broke Robinson’s phone, Plaisance said.
“I could hear him screaming and yelling and saying, ‘get off the floor.’ And he kept screaming it over and over for 30 minutes,” Plaisance said. “I was shaking, I was crying, I said ‘please get out here before he kills somebody.’”
She said when police arrived, Jones covered for her boyfriend.
“Nothing was ever done. They left, and for the past two weeks it’s been quiet around the house. I thought things were getting better, but I guess they were just keeping things on the quiet,” Plaisance said.
When the news came that Harry was missing, Plaisance said she felt dark dread, knowing that he was already dead.
“I already knew in my heart. Nobody had to say anything, I knew what happened,” she said.
Plaisance said she even filed a complaint with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, leaving out her name because she was afraid of Robinson finding out, but providing the address of the home and details of abuse.
“A lot of people are to blame,” she said. “Something should have been done. This should have never happened.”
FOX 8 reached out to DCFS for a response, asking whether an investigation had been opened into the potential abuse of Harry and whether any complaints had been received. A spokesperson said, if an investigation had been opened, they cannot comment pursuant to Louisiana state law.
“DCFS cannot comment on, or even acknowledge the existence of, a potential investigation of abuse or neglect involving a child,” the spokesperson said. “If there is an investigation, state laws make the entire process – from report to investigation to outcome – confidential.”
In Thibodaux, where Harry attended daycare at Lots-O-Tots until recently, staff members are raising money for his father and family to support them in their time of need.
The name “Ezekiel” is still visible in the building, on cubby name tags, and on the swinging door leading into the classroom space.
“He was bubbly, he laughed a lot,” said Harry’s teacher Tammy Gibbens. “Never cried. Even if he fell, he would get up and get back to what he was doing. Never had time out or never had to talk to him. He was just happy.”
Gibbens said when Harry first entered her classroom, he was shy and timid. But soon, he broke out of his shell, bringing the class to light with his dancing.
“I talked to a few parents that wanted information, and we cried together, cause it’s hard for the parents as well. You know, he was their friend. He was everybody’s friend,” Gibbens said. “There’s no words to describe how everybody’s feeling right now. We would have never suspected it, I never suspected anything.”
Rebecca Toups, who owns Lots-O-Tots, said the entire staff is devastated by the loss of Harry. She said they want to wrap their arms around in support of Harry’s father during this difficult time.
“It blows my mind that a little child’s life could be taken away like this,” Toups said. “I think that it touched so many people’s hearts because they realized how easy something like this can happen, and us not even know something is going on.”
Toups said her daycare has been contacted by DCFS since Harry’s remains were found Tuesday afternoon.
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