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Mystery surrounds deaths of 2 half siblings in Illinois

By Dan Hinkel and Ruth Fuller, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — A staff member at a Waukegan, Ill., homeless shelter in December pulled the blankets off a 6-month-old girl in her child carrier, lifted her up and made a traumatic discovery — the child was unconscious and unresponsive, said the facility’s executive director.

Less than five months after that girl died, her 3-year-old half brother died nearby in a North Chicago home.

The causes of death for Desire and Tyquan Thompson are officially listed as undetermined, and autopsy and toxicology results have not been released, but Lake County Coroner Artis Yancey said investigators suspect criminal wrongdoing. Neither child’s body showed signs of physical trauma, he said.

No suspects have been named, and the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force is investigating. Task force officials declined to comment.

As the criminal inquiry goes on, state child welfare authorities have opened investigations into three adults close to the children, who have the same father but were raised in different households.

After Desire died, Department of Children and Family Services personnel took custody of her mother’s three young children and opened an investigation into possible abuse or neglect, said spokesman Kendall Marlowe. The children are with an aunt, said the mother, Shatorria Miller, 21.

Miller said she had nothing to do with her child’s death. In December, Desire fell ill during a visit with her father’s relatives in the same home where the other child would be found dead in May, Miller said. Desire was treated at a hospital and released, Miller said. She died a week later.

“I was just in shock. I couldn’t believe that my daughter just stopped breathing on me like that,” Miller said.

After Tyquan’s death, child welfare authorities started investigating allegations of neglect against two of the father’s sisters, Marlowe said. The agency took custody of the son of one aunt and the boy is now living with relatives, Marlowe said.

The aunt whose son was removed said she was staying with her sister in the home when Desire fell ill, but she said she wasn’t in the home when Tyquan died. The aunt said neither she nor her sister harmed either child.

The aunt acknowledged her extensive history with child welfare services. The agency substantiated an allegation of neglect in September 2009 and her children were placed with their father, Marlowe said. The agency in March substantiated another allegation of neglect relating to another child, the boy that was removed after Tyquan’s death, Marlowe said.

In 2010, the aunt was charged with leaving two children home alone at 4:30 a.m., according to court records. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail and community service, but her sentence was terminated unsatisfactorily in September when she failed to meet all the conditions, according to court records.

The aunt said she has been the victim of lies about her parenting.

“My kids get anything they want,” she said. “They come before me.”

The other aunt was convicted of leaving a child unattended in a parking lot in January 2007 when temperatures were 40 degrees or below, according to court records. The records indicate she was given a year of court supervision and ordered to take a parenting class, but prosecutors filed to revoke her supervision because they said she didn’t pay court fees or take the class.

That aunt could not be reached for comment.

Though Tyquan and Desire were raised separately, both were regularly in church on Sundays at Peace of God Outreach Ministries in Waukegan, where their paternal grandmother and great-grandmother worship, said Pastor Gary Stern.

He officiated at Desire’s funeral, and months later, he oversaw services for Tyquan. The girl’s ceremony was packed with mourners; the boy’s services were limited mostly to family and friends, Stern said. The grandmother and great-grandmother, Stern said, continue to struggle with one loss compounded by another.

“I let them know the babies are at rest and at peace,” he said.

The deaths have brought anger and confusion to relatives of both children, their families said. The workings of law enforcement and the child welfare system have been just as hard to understand as the babies’ deaths, said Desire’s maternal grandmother, Kasonya Miller of Georgia.

“This whole thing,” it doesn’t make any sense, she said.

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