A 3-year-old boy was pronounced dead days after his mentally unstable 34-year-old aunt allegedly abducted and pushed him off a Navy Pier and into Lake Michigan.
According to a news release from the Chicago Police Department, the aunt, Victoria Moreno, pushed the toddler, Josiah “Jo Jo” Brown, into the lake around 1 p.m. on Sept. 19 in the 700 block of E. Grand Ave (18th District). Witnesses at the scene said Moreno watched as the child went underneath the water and didn’t take action to save him.
Nearly 30 minutes later, divers pulled the child from the water. Jo Jo wasn’t immediately deceased but was in critical condition and rushed to Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Jo Jo’s death came on Sunday, Sept. 25, at 10:16 a.m. He died after suffering from cardiac arrest and severe brain damage because he was submerged in the water for about half an hour.
On the same day of the accident, at 1:58 p.m., police arrested Moreno, now facing two felony charges, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault to a child under 13, causing permanent disability.
The offender’s defense team brought up her mental health issues and asked for mercy because of it, but Cook County Circuit Court Judge Susanna Ortiz denied the request.
According to CBS, Prosecutors argued that Moreno left the family home in Des Plaines, where Jo Jo resided with his grandmother and another aunt, taking the boy with her without the family’s knowledge. She also took the keys to the family’s truck without informing anyone.
Jo Jo’s other aunt, who woke that morning to wake up her kids, was the first to notice Moreno had left. When she no longer heard Jo Jo talking, she “became alarmed.” That’s when the aunt noticed Moreno and the child were missing along with the truck.
Due to the medication the suspect took for her mental illness– she wasn’t allowed to drive. Moreno taking Jo Jo alarmed them because the week before Sept. 19, she did the same thing with other family members’ children. She took them without permission to the Navy Pier, but the 11-year-old was able to call family members and inform them of their location, asking for help.
Before the Navy Pier, Moreno attempted to take the 3-year-old to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago but only had cash and couldn’t get in. She then parked at the pier and went to McDonald’s to get food for her and Jo Jo, buying him a Happy Meal. Next, they went to the dock, where chains kept people from falling into the water.
Surveillance footage captured Jo Jo crawling under the chains towards the pier’s edge. She climbed over the chains, straddled the boy, and pushed him into the lake, watching him drown. Two people saw Moreno cowering by the lake and asked her what had happened to the child, but she remained silent.
They called the police and retrieved a life ring to save the boy, but he was submerged in the water. A witness spoke with CBS News and described Moreno’s demeanor as “weird.”
“The red flags were there,” witness Ashton King said. “She was acting very weird. I did end up telling the officer, I said, ‘Listen…she was the only one here when we got here. She’s just been acting off, weird. I just don’t know if she’s off. Something is not right.’”
King said the aunt didn’t show any signs of concern or panic from when she allegedly pushed Jo Jo into when divers pulled him out. Before rescuers arrived, King saw Moreno staring out at the lake, looking at the child float on his back.
Officials determined the child was reportedly pushed into the water at 1:23 p.m., rescuers arrived at 1:32 p.m., divers entered the water at 1:35 p.m., and divers removed Jo Jo from the water at 1:42 p.m.
“I have the aunt in my possession right now. According to CBS, she was on the scene the whole time,” a police officer said into his radio. However, when questioned by police, Moreno pretended not to know the child. Later, she told police that she was holding on to the baby’s shirt and let go of it because he began “acting up,” causing him to fall into the lake.
The family created a GoFundMe when Jo Jo was fighting for his life in the hospital, collecting over $19,000 with a $100,000 goal. The funds will likely go towards funeral expenses after the boy’s death.
Jo Jo’s father and YouTuber, Dantrell Brown, has been in and out of the hospital because he needs a heart transplant. Brown discovered he needed a heart transplant days before his son’s death. Brown was in the hospital when he got the call about his son dying.
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“I gotta cross the finish line for you and get that heart transplant,” Brown wrote on his social media. “If I don’t make it out, we can finally have that swim together that I promised you. Look at the joy you bought me. I’m not okay. I’m being strong because I figure if everyone seeing me being strong– they can feed off my strength and be strong as well, but bubba, I’m not ok. I’m trying, but I’m not ok and never will be.”
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